AARP Massachusetts Monthly Fraud Watch Update for June 2021
Did you know that someone’s identity gets stolen every two seconds? The AARP Fraud Watch Network provides you with tips and resources to help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud so you can protect yourself and your family. Our watchdog alerts will keep you up to date on con artists’ latest tricks. It’s free of charge for everyone: AARP members, non-members, and people of all ages. Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam. Report scams to local law enforcement. Contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork for more information on fraud prevention.
Scam Alert #1: Celebrity Imposter Scams
These days, celebrities share career news, personal views, even travel videos on social media and interact with fans in comment threads. But if you get a direct message out of the blue from a favorite musician, actor or athlete, don’t get starry-eyed, get skeptical — it’s almost certainly a scam. It’s also always a scam when they ask for money for charity or say that you’ve won a large cash prize but need to pay an entry or processing fee.
Sadly, the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline hears about these scams all the time – someone pretending to be Toby Keith or Beyoncé asking for money to help their favorite charity or offering special access for a price.
Remember, never share your personal information or send money via wire transfer, gift card or prepaid debit card to someone you don’t know and have only communicated with online, no matter how supposedly famous they are. Check that the social media account of your favorite celebrity is verified (look for the checkmark in a blue circle next to their name on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter).
Scam Alert #2: Disaster Repair Scams
Following extreme weather events, dubious contractors and outright scammers descend on affected communities, offering quick, cheap fixes. While some reputable contractors occasionally solicit door-to-door, many are scams.
After storms, shady contractors and outright scammers canvas neighborhoods in search of “work” that they may or may not even attempt to do. Many will specifically target older homeowners who they perceive as more trusting, more likely to have savings, and – they think – may be experiencing cognitive decline.
It’s safest to only trust contractors that you proactively reach out to. Also, regardless of who you are talking to, get written estimates and compare bids from multiple contractors before starting any work. Finally, pay no more than a third of the total cost prior to the work beginning – and then only when materials arrive.
Scam Alert #3: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
When we think about scammers, we often think of “stranger danger” stemming from overseas criminal enterprises bombarding our phones and emails with fraudulent offers. The sad reality for older adults is that the majority of financial abuse they suffer is perpetrated by someone they know.
June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and it’s the perfect time to remember that seniors are vulnerable to financial abuse by loved ones as well as strangers. Some warning signs to look out for include: a caregiver or family member who suddenly asks for access to your loved one’s accounts or possessions, changes in their financial practices such as new credit cards or unopened bank statements, and a financial agent who isn’t following your loved one’s wishes.
Most importantly, if you suspect any sort of financial, physical or sexual abuse, report it to local law enforcement right away.
Scam Alert #4: Weight Loss Scams
Looking to slim down for summer? If so, you are not alone. More than 100 million Americans are watching their diet, spending more than $70 billion a year to lose weight. It is not surprising that bogus diet products and programs ranked first among health care scams reported to the Federal Trade Commission last year.
While there are legitimate diet and weight loss programs out there, many don’t work and are just out for your money. Engage your inner skeptic – does it sound too good to be true to lose weight while eating as much as you want? Second, just because a product is touted as “natural” or “herbal,” doesn’t mean it’s “safe” or “wholesome,” and some herbal ingredients are toxic in certain doses.
Scam Alert 5: Social Media Romance Scams
Lastly, a lot of subscription programs encourage you to sign up for a free trial but when you read the tiny print, they automatically opt you into getting charged for regular orders or additional products. Be careful – it can be very hard to untangle your “opt in” – so read everything before you make a move.
Dating scams aren’t limited to dating sites and apps. Many occur on popular social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, and on game platforms, like Words with Friends. The Federal Trade Commission reported a four fold increase in romance scams between 2019 and 2020. The hardest-hit victims? People age 70 and over, with a median loss of $9,475.
The typical romance scam starts online with light conversation and then a request to move off the platform to a private channel like email or a text app. Time goes by and the scammer eventually convinces the target that the relationship is real and that they will be together one day. Then comes the emergency request for money—by wire transfer or gift cards typically, but it’s not just a one time request. The requests may turn into demands, and when the target comes out from under the scammer’s ether and realizes he wasn’t ever talking to his forever love, his money is gone, and his heart is broken.
When connecting online, look out for these red flags: an online profile that’s almost too good to be true; a request to leave the platform for email or text messaging; something that prevents meeting in person; and an urgent request for money.
Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.
Report scams to local law enforcement. For help from AARP, call 1-877-908-3360 or visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.