As the prime target for scammers, Iowans aged 60 and older have to keep a careful eye on their finances. Investment fraud is a big concern for many, but it’s not the only one.
As an Iowa Fraud Fighter, you have pledged to be an informed protector of your savings. Watch to learn about the common scams we see affecting Iowans the most.
Often when something is new or something changes, there is opportunity for con artists. Read Commissioner Ommen’s tips on approaching Cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, with caution.
To protect Iowans keep scrolling to learn more about the most common investment scams, and those from our partner agencies, SHIIP and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.
Your investment approach should change as you grow older to fit your changing needs. Be wary of con artists who will take advantage of this period of change in your finances. Always double check with the Iowa Insurance Division to make sure your investment professional is properly licensed, and if you suspect one of these scams is happening to you or someone you know.
|Affinity Fraud||Affinity fraud targets identified groups such as religious or ethnic communities. Scammers begin by targeting a leader or respected member and using that member’s influence to attract more investors in a pyramid-type scheme.|
|Free Dinner Seminars||Free meal seminars are often advertised in local newspapers, on websites or through mass-mailed invitations or emails. Many of these are used to sell investment products and open new accounts for attendees with the sponsoring firm at the seminar or through later contact with attendees.|
|Gold and Precious Metals||These are always risky investments. It may be a scam if the seller is convincing you to invest in gold mining or to purchase gold or other precious metals, which will be delivered to a secured facility. Be sure the company is genuine, and take measures to ensure the gold or precious metal you invested in does exist.|
|High-yield Investment Products||Scammers claim they have access to the leading European or foreign financial institutions or banks and suggest they are enrolling you in an elite investment venture. These scams promise high returns at little or no risk to you. Be wary of high-yield investments using the term “prime bank” investments.|
|Oil and Gas Drilling Programs||These programs can be scams, especially those claiming a particular well is guaranteed to produce high returns or have attractive tax advantages.|
|Ponzi or Pyramid Schemes||These scams promise high returns for investors but collapse when new investors can’t be found. These schemes use funds from new investors to pay off the initial investors, but the scammer usually has spent the money before it collapses.|
|Private Placement Offerings||Also called regulation D, rule 506 offerings, these can be used by small companies to raise funds. The implementation of this rule means investors exceeding a certain income may be approached for investments, but these investment offerings are unregulated and oftentimes are scams or very risky investments.|
|Promissory Notes||Promissory notes are typically used by companies to raise money by selling a portion of their debt to an investor, but beware the company may not be legitimate.|
|Self-directed IRA Fraud||Self-directed IRA fraud typically occurs when a scammer misrepresents the responsibilities of self-directed IRA custodians. Scammers may falsely suggest your investment is protected or that your self-directed IRA custodian will investigate the investment offer for you.|
Healthcare insurance is an investment in your health. The Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) is a free, confidential service of the State of Iowa that assists Iowans in making informed decisions about Medicare coverage. SHIIP also helps Iowans spot and report Medicare fraud. Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP), like SHIIP, falls under the Iowa Insurance Division and helps Iowans spot and report Medicare fraud.
|Enrollment Scams||These are common whenever it is time to renew or enroll in Medicare or Medicaid health plans. Con artists might go door-to-door or use email and phone calls to try to enroll Iowans in false or inappropriate Medicare coverage plans.|
|False Billing||False billing occurs when Medicare is charged on your behalf for services, procedures or products you did not receive. These charges will appear on your monthly statements.|
|Medicare Mail Fraud||Medicare mail fraud occurs when fraudsters send fraudulent mail that imitates Medicare mailings in order to steal your personal financial information and/or Medicare number. If any mailing you receive looks suspicious, call SHIIP to report.|
|Medicare Number Theft||This can happen in a number of ways, but the most common instances occur when someone steals your Medicare card or you receive a phone call requesting your Medicare number and personal financial information to provide you with a “new” or “updated” Medicare card.|
The Iowa Attorney General’s office protects Iowans from consumer fraud and enforces laws that keep fraudulent sales practices from harming consumers. Following these tips will protect your savings from scammers beyond the health, insurance and investment realms.
|Craigslist and eBay Scams||Scam artists troll legitimate listings for properties and products and use them to post new, false listings with new contact information and a lower price. The scammers often reply with a poorly written email requesting a wire transfer or debit card for payment.|
|Charity Scams||Charity scammers may mislead donors and divert funds from charitable operations by using sound-alike names or claiming connections to well-known charities or causes.|
|Computer Tech Support Scams||Con artists pose as computer technical support employees, sometimes for Microsoft or Windows, calling to gain remote access to your computer to fix a virus or download software. They use the software to steal personal information or cause damage and may charge a fee for “fixing” or “protecting” your computer.|
|Grandparent Scams||These are used to coerce money from older Iowans by con artists who pretend to be a grandchild calling from a foreign country in desperate need of money to get out of jail or some other urgent trouble. They may try to keep you from calling other family members to confirm where your grandchildren are by saying they are too scared or embarrassed to tell their parents.|
|Home Repair Scams||When there has been a damaging weather event, such as a flood or tornado, scammers pretend to be contractors or home repair specialists while selling home evaluations and repairs in affected areas. Once payments have been made, they disappear without providing the repair services that were paid for.|
|Identity Theft||Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information to open accounts, file taxes or make purchases.|
|IRS Scam Calls||False IRS calls are common and can target anyone. These robocalls may claim that the IRS is filing suit against you for owed taxes or threaten to send police to your residence if you don’t pay a specific amount using pre-paid cards. Do not call the number these scammers provide or pay the amount demanded – the IRS does not call people on the phone.|
|Lottery Scams||The only lottery legally authorized to operate in Iowa is the Iowa Lottery. International or out-of-state lottery ticket sales by mail, email or telephone are illegal and frequently fraudulent.|
|Mortgage Rescue Scams||Fraudsters may guarantee to get you a loan modification or prevent home foreclosure if you pay a fee or pay your mortgage payments to the scammer instead. Watch out if they suggest transferring your deed or title or tell you not to speak to your lender or an attorney.|
|Sweepstakes Scams||Sweepstakes and contest scams occur when fraudsters charge an entry fee or seek advance payment from winners to collect a prize that ultimately will not be sent. If a check for the prize amount is sent, it often bounces.|
|Sweetheart Scams and Internet Dating||Con artists may use online dating to initiate an intimate and trusting relationship before making requests or demands for financial support.|
|Telemarketing Scams||Some scammers imitate legitimate telemarketers to pressure you into providing personal financial information or your Social Security number.|
|Work-at-Home Scams||Scam companies promise a big income and “opportunities” that will allow you to work from home if you buy their starter kits or pay for certifications. Many are pyramid schemes and may simply continue pressuring you to buy more services.|