Practical Hints for Seniors – Juice Jacking and Other Scary Stuff

Protect yourself from the dreaded jack-attack.

Plugging your phone into a public charging station or unknown port is risky.  Your phone cord is a two-way device – it can send data to and from your phone.  An unknown port, like those found in airports, hotel rooms, rental cars and conference centers, can be hacked. If you plug into a hacked port, then everything on your phone, including contacts, pictures, notes, passwords, and data, can be stolen.  Your phone may also have a virus downloaded to it.

This is known as “juice jacking.”

A similar problem is “video jacking”, where downloaded malware uses your phone’s video display to record everything you type and look at.

To protect yourself, you should not use public USB ports.

Instead, rely on your own charger, invest in a portable USB battery pack, or pay for an upgraded USB cord that does not have wires to transmit data.

If you receive a phone call, email, flyer or dunning letter that demands payment and says that the only acceptable payment method is by wiring money, putting money on a gift care or loading money onto a cash reload card, it’s a scam.  Do not pay.  Instead, report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

You do not have to pay for your new Medicare card.  If you receive a call or visit from someone demanding payment for the card, report it by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS or submit a complaint online to the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The IRS does not come calling.  They do not initiate their first contact with you via phone, email or through social media.  The IRS cannot threaten to have you arrested or deported for not paying taxes.  If you receive a suspicious written contact, send it to phishing@irs.gov.  If you receive a fake IRS phone call, hang up immediately and report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.

How do you know a real IRS contact?

Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill or notice to you if you owe taxes.   If there is a follow-up in-person visit, then a real IRS representative will provide you with two forms of official credentials called a pocket commission and a HSPD-12 card.  You have a right to see the credentials.  They will not demand that you make an immediate payment.  If you eventually make a payment, it should be by check made payable to the U.S. Treasury and sent directly to the IRS.  You can go to www.irs.gov for more information.

Taking advantage of a grieving widower or widow is another popular scam.  Do not believe strangers who show up at funerals claiming the newly departed owed them money.  And beware disreputable funeral homes, who will sometimes try to sell a burial expensive casket for a direct cremation.  It absolutely is not necessary; a cardboard casket is customarily used.

And never, ever, send money to someone you only know through a dating website!

Virginia, a 1982 SMU law school graduate, has advised clients for over 35 years.  For more information, visit hammerle.com, and for newsletter sign-up, email legaltalktexas@hammerle.com.  This column does not constitute legal advice.