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Buyer Beware: Avoiding Scams & Schemes

We have recently been hearing and seeing more and more scams showing up in our mailboxes, voicemails, and texts. We all know people who have been victims of these scams. To help you protect yourself and your loved ones, we want to offer information on how to recognize and avoid common scams as well as provide some additional resources. 


Scammers are constantly coming up with new ways to deceive people, and it's important to stay informed about the latest scams. One of the most common scams is phishing, where scammers pretend to be trustworthy organizations or companies to trick people into giving away their personal information.  


Another scam is the tech support scam, where scammers pose as tech support representatives and offer to fix non-existent computer problems for a fee. Investment and lottery scams, as well as romance scams, are also on the rise.  


Don't fall victim to these scams! Be skeptical and cautious when asked for personal or financial information. Always verify the legitimacy of offers or requests before taking any action. 


Here are some tips to help you avoid falling for scams: 

  • Research the company or organization: Check if the company or organization is legitimate by researching them online. Look for reviews, ratings, and any information that can help you determine if they are trustworthy. 

  • Check for contact information: Legitimate companies and organizations have proper contact information such as a phone number, email address, and physical address. If the offer or request does not include any contact information, it may be a red flag 

  • Don't click on links: Scammers may include links in their offers or requests that lead to fake websites or malware. Avoid clicking on any links and instead, manually type out the website address in your browser.  

  • Ask for verification: If you are unsure about the legitimacy of an offer or request, ask for verification. Legitimate companies and organizations will be happy to provide you with proof of their legitimacy. 

  • It’s good to be skeptical – and when in doubt, verify: It’s best practice to never give your personal information to anyone you aren’t certain is legitimate.  Simply hang up, close the email, and cease any communication when you get a bad feeling or have any doubts.   

 

SIX SCAMS TO AVOID IN 2024 

1. Email Phishing Scams

Email scams, also known as phishing scams, are fraudulent attempts to obtain sensitive information from individuals via email. Scammers often pose as legitimate companies or organizations and try to trick individuals into providing personal and sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, credit card details, or social security numbers.  

These scams can take many forms, such as fake job offers, lottery winnings, and urgent requests for financial assistance. Amazon, PayPal or Netflix, and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and X (Twitter) are also circulating.  They often use convincing language and fake logos to appear legitimate. 

 

Some email scams also include malicious attachments or links that, when clicked, can install malware or ransomware on your device, giving scammers access to your personal information and files. Two scams we are seeing circulate right now are with Norton and DocuSign.   

It's important to be cautious and vigilant when checking your emails, so look at who the email came from and if you don’t recognize who the sender is, don’t open it or click on links or attachments.  

 

Even if an email looks legitimate go to their website via your browser or go to your online account to verify that the information is correct. Or call the phone number you have on the back of your ID card or via the company website to ensure you are talking to them.   

Legitimate companies won’t reach out to you and ask for any private information to verify who you are, like bank account info, Social Security or Medicare number unless you are talking directly to Medicare or Social Security or your insurance carrier on a call you initiated. 


2. Check Cooking Scam

A check cooking scam is a fraudulent scheme in which scammers send fake checks to people and then ask them to deposit the checks and send back a portion of the funds. The checks are usually for an amount greater than what the scammers are requesting, and they'll often claim that the extra funds are to cover taxes or fees. Once the victim has deposited the check and sent back the requested amount, the check will eventually bounce, and the victim will be left responsible for the entire amount. To avoid falling victim to this scam, it's crucial to be cautious when receiving unsolicited checks or requests for money. 

Never deposit a check from someone you don't know or trust, and never send money or personal information to someone you don't know. If someone is requesting that you send back a portion of the funds from a check they've sent you, it's likely a scam. 


3. Voiceprint Scams 

Thanks to technological advances, it’s possible for thieves to capture a recording of your voice and then use a software program to generate an imitation “deepfake” version that can be used to impersonate you. 

It’s a good idea to be wary of unsolicited phone calls or messages asking for your voice or other personal information.  


4. Delayed-Action Sweepstakes Scam 

The delayed action sweepstakes scam is designed to prey on people's desire for a windfall and their fear of missing out on an opportunity. To avoid falling victim to this scam, it's important to be cautious when approached with offers that seem too good to be true. Never send money or provide personal information to someone you don't know or trust and be wary of any requests for payment or personal information. Remember, if you've won a legitimate sweepstakes or lottery, you should never have to pay a fee to claim your prize.  


5. Virtual Celebrity Scam 

A virtual celebrity scam is a fraudulent scheme in which scammers create fake social media accounts or websites to impersonate popular celebrities or influencers. They use these fake accounts to deceive people into thinking they are interacting with the actual celebrity or influencer, and then request money or personal information from them. To avoid falling victim to this scam, it's important to verify the legitimacy of any social media accounts or websites claiming to be those of celebrities or influencers. Be wary of any requests for money or personal information, and always confirm the identity of the person you're interacting with before taking any action. Remember, if you're unsure about the authenticity of an account or website, it's better to err on the side of caution and not engage with it. 


6. Multistage Grandparent Scam 

A multistage grandparent scam is a fraudulent scheme that targets elderly individuals by posing as their grandchild or other family member in distress. The scammer will typically call or email the victim, claiming to be the grandchild or relative and requesting money for an emergency, such as a medical bill or legal fee. The scam may involve multiple stages, with the scammer contacting the victim multiple times over days or weeks to build trust and establish a sense of urgency. To avoid falling victim to this scam, it's important to exercise caution and verify the identity of the person making the request. If someone claiming to be a family member asks for money, take the time to confirm their identity by asking personal questions that only they would know the answer to. Be wary of any requests for money or personal information, and always confirm the legitimacy of the situation before taking any action. Remember, scammers often use emotional manipulation to pressure their victims into giving them money, so don't be afraid to take a step back and assess the situation objectively. 

 

RESOURCES FOR FIGHTING FRAUD 

The AARP website has a Fraud Watch Network, established in 2013, and offers several free and useful resources: 

  • A Fraud Resource Center with more than 60 tip sheets providing do’s and don’ts on common scams and fraud. 

  • Watchdog Alertsdelivered by email or text message, on the latest scams and tips on how to spot them. 

  • A nationwide Scam-Tracking Map, where you can find the latest alerts from your state attorney generals and other officials, read what people are reporting in your state and report scams or suspicious emails and phone calls in your area. 

  • A toll-free Fraud Watch Network Helpline, 1-877-908-3360, whose trained specialists offer peer counseling, support and referral services to fraud victims and their family members. 

  • For more information, visit aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork. 

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