scam alertScammed

With only an average thousand bucks a month coming in, most people receiving Social Security disability benefits can hardly be classified as rich. Thus they have to constantly look for bargains and sales in order to make ends meet or do things like go somewhere on vacation. Because the need for lower prices is great, sometimes this group becomes more open to be scammed as their need for deals makes them an “ideal” target.


What are some things to look for in scams and how do you protect yourself?

It’s Been a Long Time

Scams have been around for thousands of years. Investopedia relays a story about a Greek merchant over 2,000 years ago who took out an insurance policy on his cargo ship and then tried to sink it to collect the money. He drowned as his ship’s crew and passengers tried to capture him after they caught him in the act of trying to scuttle the boat with them on it.

The inventions of the telephone, and more recently the internet, have only made it easier for scammers to reach additional people and duplicating their schemes ever faster. But the stories are all pretty much the same. In its barest form, the scammer presents a proposal that caters to either fear or greed.

Taxing Burden

The IRS receives thousands of reports annually, especially around tax season, of people receiving emails and phone calls where they are threatened over tax errors or failure to pay. You can easily spot this scam and protect yourself. First, the IRS always mails letters informing of a problem before calling. Even if they do call they will never demand immediate payment with a credit card, prepaid debit card or wire transfer. You always will have time to question or appeal any amount the IRS states you owe. If you feel that what you are being told may be the truth, take the caller’s information but DO NOT call the telephone number they provide you with. Instead, call the IRS using a number published on their website,

Take a Hike

Are you ready for a vacation? It may be wise to stay off of Craigslist or other classified ad posting websites when looking for a place to stay or things to do during your next vacation. Instead, look for actual companies with bona fide websites, better business listings and real offices out of which they conduct business.

Booking websites like Airbnb and FlipKey afford some protection due to verifying host identities but even they are not 100% secure and involve some risk. When using these websites look for hosts that allow refunds or cancellations. A strict no-refund policy may indicate a person who is more willing to take your money than give you a great housing experience. Read the cancellation policy very carefully.

In addition, contact the host through the site and ask detailed questions about the property and what is allowed and not allowed. Many scammers will allow anything and everything to simply get you to book. Don’t be surprised if a host does not provide an exact address. For safety reasons, very few hosts will provide an exact address until after you book.

When you receive the address after booking and don’t like the location, cancel right away (another reason to skip the no refund hosts). You will probably lose the booking fee the website charges. Often, in Airbnb’s case, the fee amount is only a few dollars unless you rent something pretty expensive.

Buy Something

eBay is one of my favorite marketplaces due to the wide variety of merchandise that can be found there but it also has its trolls. Before making a purchase you should always look at the seller’s ratings. Read through the negative comments looking for any feedback left on the product you are considering. Take note of people’s complaints and don’t expect that you will receive better treatment. It is often wiser to choose a seller with a higher number of ratings over fewer ratings as long as the more ratings are good ones.  

Sellers that post their physical location as opposed to simply stating they are in a specific country will probably be more reliable than those who are more general.

eBay does not allow sellers to provide website links or try to encourage purchasers to buy items off of the eBay platform. If an eBay seller tries to persuade you to purchase using any means other than the eBay website then the seller may be trying to scam you.

Maybe a Different Sweater

The advice provided above for eBay can also be used on many e-commerce websites. Always look for “trust” symbols on the website such as links that work to Better Business Bureau pages corresponding to that company. Before entering any financial information glance up to the very top of your browser and make sure the website address starts with “https” and not just “http.” If it does not have the “s” on the end do not provide any personal or financial information.

Another item to look for in possible scam websites is the wording. Check to make sure the site’s content is written in proper grammar. Many scam websites are written by people in foreign countries whose native language is not English so they may contain grammatical errors.

Answer the Phone!

Never provide financial or personal information to an unknown phone caller, especially if it is the first time you have talked. Always ask for a number to call them back, their name, company’s name as well as the company’s mailing and physical address. Make sure the company is reputable before calling them back.

Once, after collecting the above information from a smooth-talking caller, I waited until 4 AM to call back what I was given as the company’s main telephone number. The same salesperson answered the phone and it was obvious I had gotten them out of bed. This company did turn out to be a scam in the end.

Here is another phone scam. It’s the late night phone call from a relative. It usually starts with, “Hi Grandmom. Do you know who this is?” Once you guess a name the caller will assume that identity and ask you for some money due to an unexpected financial crisis such as their car breaking down and they need to pay the tow driver.

Big Brother

You can rest assured if anyone ever calls purported to be from a government agency and requests personal information such as a Social Security number the caller is probably trying to scam you. The government is “Big Brother.” Most likely a legitimate government agency would already have your Social Security number and other information in their databases.

Advantage of Grief

The FBI has provided a warning about being taken advantage of during sensitive times in our lives. The loss of a loved one can create an occasion of high. This scam often starts with a phone call recently after a funeral in which the caller states the deceased owes them money and demands payment. Like all the other wisdom provided in this article, never provide any information to the caller. Simply take their information and pass it on to the estate’s executor or a trusted family member or friend for confirmation.

You Won!

Emails and phone calls abound with free money scams. They have been so widely publicized that it is difficult to believe that it still exists. But it does. Someone will tell you that you have won an award, a prize, an inheritance or money for something else. The only thing you have to do is provide them with a payment or your banking information before they can send it to you. Never comply with their wishes.

A similar scheme involves sending you a check to cash. Never cash the check. If you do, expect it to bounce and then the funds will be removed from your account to cover the expenses.


Many people with disabilities have numerous medical conditions that require equipment to make life easier. It is always nice to be able to get these health aids for free or very low cost. However, be careful to read the fine print. Sometimes the actual object may be free but the shipping is exorbitant, requires signing up for additional services with ongoing charges, or requires expensive tests before the item can be sent. Many times these items end up costing much more in the long run.

Be Alert

Anyone can be victim to a scam, not just people with disabilities. There are verified stories of past United States presidents, extremely intelligent corporate CEOs as well as community leaders who have been scammed and lost thousands of dollars. Literally, it can happen to anyone. The best way to keep from being scammed is to be diligent, research and listen to your heart if you feel something may not be right. Never be afraid to say, “No!”




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About the Cochran Firm Disability Lawyers
Recognized as one of the nation’s premier law firms, The Cochran Firm handles cases on behalf of clients seeking a Personal Injury Lawyer, Criminal Defense, Medical Malpractice, Bankruptcy Attorney in Atlanta or Social Security Disability Lawyer.The Firm can be reached at 1-800-THE-FIRM (1-800-843-3476) or fill out the form on this page. “Working for You.” Article by Benjamin A. Irwin, Esq.



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