Scams cost Americans 18 million dollars a year out-of-pocket - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Scams cost Americans 18 million dollars a year out-of-pocket

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MISSOULA -

Scams cost Americans almost 18 million dollars a year, out-of-pocket.

Nine days into the New Year and experts are already warning 2018 could be more challenging when it comes to protecting yourself from fraud than 2017.
One woman just avoided becoming a scam victim.

Her name is Linda and she lives at the Missoula Manor, which is an assisted living facility for seniors.

Linda said that she received a notice via mail that she won 250,000 dollars from the Consumers Sweepstakes Lottery.

But luckily, she noticed incorrect and suspicious information that made her realize this was a scam.

Linda said that an envelope was delivered to her room without an apartment number and without the correct name.

She says she also noticed that there were two stamped postmarks, one being from South
Africa.

"I mean you look at it and your like wow I have this huge 250,000 dollars prize coming my way, all I have to do is no it's not for real especially if it is misspelled," said Linda.

Linda is one of the lucky ones that didn't fall victim.

But unfortunately, scammers tend to focus their audience on people like Linda, the elderly.

"Seniors are definitely being targeted because they know that they are more likely to have nest eggs than someone who is 24. However, they say one in three people are falling victim every two seconds to some sort of scam," said Renee Labrie-Shanks, Montana SMP Program Manager.

This huge statistic is why Labrie-Shanks said that she is focusing her efforts on teaching people how to avoid similar situations.

"It's not so much that she didn't fall victim that it is not important so we have to keep it from happening to other people who will fall victim," said Labrie-Shanks.

Labrie-Shanks points out two red flags for which to look out, including a processing fee or information related to taxes and non-working telephone numbers.

Still she adds sometimes these red flags are not so obvious.

"The challenge that we have is that there are a lot of homebound seniors. And that phone call that they get every day or that visit that they get at their door might be the only visit they get at their door that day or even that week," said Dan Butcha.

So Butcha said that older people tend to speak on the phone longer than they should or simply listen and that causes seniors to fall into traps.

He said that it's important to raise awareness about these scams so more people will avoid getting themselves into bad situations this New Year, just like Linda did. 

"I am grateful for having been given this knowledge to be suspicious and not think of it as a get rich quick type of thing," said Linda.

So if you think something you received may be a scam, you can search it in the AARP Fraud Watch and you can submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission.

It's important to let law enforcement and public officials know about the scam, so other people know as well and can avoid the same issue. 

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