Identity theft, investment fraud and scams rob millions of Americans of their hard-earned money. In 2012, 12.6 million people were victims of identity theft alone- that's one person every 3 seconds.
That's why AARP launched the Fraud Watch Network- a campaign to fight identity theft and fraud and give you access to information about how to protect yourself and your family and friends. Non-members and members alike can get our watchdog alerts, learn about active scams, and find resources about what to do to spot and avoid them. We're inviting anyone, of any age, to access our website and network of resources free of charge.
As part of that effort, we've developed this “Watchdog Alert: 13 Ways Con Artists Can Steal Your Hard-Earned Money”- a guide to 13 of the different cons criminals use and the information you need to be on your guard.
This watchdog alert includes three different types of fraud and scams: identity theft, investment fraud, and online and offline scams. Details about what strategies and tactics criminals use are based on hundreds of undercover fraud tapes and hours of interviews with victims and cons. The information about how to protect you was developed by law enforcement and financial industry experts.
Identity theft occurs when someone steals personal information that could be used to falsely apply for credit or for government benefits. Here are three common ways con artists steal your identity.
Someone contacts you via email and says there is some problem with your bank account and you need to verify the account with a Social Security Number, bank routing number or birth date.
2. Stealing mail or sensitive documents
Personal information is taken from your trash, your office or from social media websites and used to steal your identity.
3. Bogus job opportunities
Con artists post bogus job offers on various employment websites. The scammer may use or sell your personal information provided in the job application.
4. Gold Coin Scam
You hear an ad on the radio that describes how the world economy is shaky and the only thing you can really rely on during periods of economic uncertainty is precious metal. You call a toll-free number and are pitched n buying gold and silver coins that will undoubtedly go up significantly in value. What you are not told is that the coins are being sold at a 300-500% mark up and you will lose money the minute you buy them.
5. Free Lunch
The Scammer invites a hundred people to a seminar, where he or she resents an unbeatable investment opportunity. You must sign up right then and there. You can't sign up later because he or she s leaving town in two hours, and so will your money.
6. Oil and Gas Scams
Someone calls and tells you they are drilling for oil off the Gulf Coast or in Mississippi, and they have this great new technology that allows them to find oil where no one else has ever been able to drill. Ask if the caller is a registered broker and if the investment is registered with the state or the SEC. If not, don't invest.
Other common Scams
7. Fake Checks
This scam preys on people trying to sell merchandise on Craigslist or eBay. They will offer to pay you more than you are asking for the item with a cashier's check, then ask you to pay a portion of it back as a handling fee. The cashier's check appears to clear the bank, but is eventually determined to be no good, leaving you without your merchandise and having paid a fee.
8. Tech Support Scams
You receive an email claiming to be from the Microsoft Corporation, and they claim there is a problem with your computer and they need to install an anti-virus program for $99. You are then led to a website where the con “proves” there is a problem. Afraid of the consequences of inaction, you allow the con to take remote control of your computer and they actually install a virus and charge you for it.
9. Disaster-Related Charity Fraud
Every time there is a major natural disaster somewhere in the country, scammers come out of the woodwork sending emails to raise money for the victims of the disaster. You think the money is going to help victims, but it is really going to line the pockets of a criminal.
10. Sweetheart Scams
You go onto a dating website to try to meet someone with whom you could share a good time. You meet a person who quickly expresses an interest in you. Unfortunately, it is really a con artist who builds an emotional bond with you and then starts asking you for money.
11. Travel Scams
You receive a solicitation saying you can enjoy steep discounts on travel to many parts of the world by joining a travel club- for a fixed fee that is often in the thousands of dollars. You find out later that the discounted fares for cruises and other travel were either not as low as represented or not available.
12. The Grandparent Scam
A young person calls you pretending to be your grandson or granddaughter. They tell you they have been arrested for drunken driving or they are being detained for some other reason and they need you to wire them $3,000 or $1,700 or some other amount to get them out of trouble. They may have gotten your grandson's name from social media or they may have just waited for you to say, “Is this Joey?”
and then they continue the ruse.
13. The Foreign Lottery Scam
You receive a letter or a phone call saying you may have won a foreign lottery. All you have to do to collect your winnings is to wire money to the caller for taxes or “processing fee.” The fact is that foreign lotteries are illegal and if you have never entered a lottery, its impossible to win.
Protect Your Social Security Number (SSN) & Personal Information
Monitor Your Bills & Financial Accounts
Watch Over Your Credit Report
Protect Personal Identification Numbers (PINS) & Passwords
Protect Your Information Online
Protect Your Mail
Be Cautious of Scams & Frauds
The traditional season for giving may be a peak time for taking according to a new AARP survey. “BEWARE THE GRINCH: American Consumers At Risk Of Being Scammed During The Holidays,” revealed that many consumers failed a quiz on avoiding popular holiday scams while large percentages of Americans intend to engage in risky behaviors that could put them squarely in the sights of holiday con artists. For more information about the survey, go to aarp.org/holidayscams.
Avoid holiday scams with these tips:
Love your smartphone? So do scammers. With more than 1.5 billion smartphones forecast to be sold worldwide in 2016, you can expect more mobile mayhem this year. The reigning ruses:
Nearly 70 percent of smartphone texters say they receive unwanted spam messages, studies show. And people are three times more likely to respond to spam received by cellphone than when using a desktop or laptop computer. That's particularly dangerous because more than a quarter of text- message spam- such as free gift cards, cheap medications and similar text-message come-ons- is intended to criminally defraud you, compared with only about 10 percent of spam arriving by email. These texts often lead you to shady websites that install malware on your phone or otherwise seek to steal sensitive details for identity theft.
What to know Don't click on links or follow instructions to text “stop” or “no” to prevent future texts. This only confirms to scammers that yours is a live, active number for future spam. Use and regularly update anti-malware software designed for smartphones; ask your phone's manufacturer or service provider for recommendations. Forward suspicious texts to 7726 (“SPAM” on most keypads) to alert your carrier to those numbers, and then delete them.
The one-ring con
In a longtime calling scam, crooks leave voice messages asking you to call back a specific number because you have won a sweepstakes or have an undeliverable package. Now they simply program calls to smartphones to ring only once or disconnect when you answer. Your curiosity over a missed-call alert results in you spending upwards of $30 to call back. The reason: Despite a seemingly American area code, the call is to an international phone number- often in the Caribbean- that charges a premium connection fee and per-minute rate, which is extended through long holds and frequent transfers.
You might also find charges crammed onto your bill with such innocuous language as “special services,” “internet advertising” or “minimum monthly usage fee.”
What to know Beware of any unfamiliar calls- one ring or otherwise- with area codes 268, 284, 473, 649, 664, 767, 809, 829, 849 or 876.
These text messages claim to be from your bank or credit card company and say there's a problem with your account. You're instructed to click an included link, which leads you to a look-alike, scammer-run website that seeks your name, account number and online log-in credentials.
What to know If there's really an account problem, you might get an email, but it will include your name and portion of your account number. Or your bank or credit card company may telephone you with a fraud alert, but it won't ask for any personal data.
Finally, Keep in mind that smartphones are prime targets for old-fashioned theft. Don't let yours reveal your secrets if it winds up in the wrong hands. Always protect it with a strong PIN. And don't use it to store credit card and account log-in information- or anything else potentially compromising.
Last year, unsuspecting taxpayers lost more than $1 million to fraudsters posing as IRS Agents. The scheme goes like this: The IRS imposter calls claiming you owe taxes and demands immediate payment using a prepaid debit card or a wire transfer. Refuse and you are threatened with arrest or the loss of your business or driver's license. How do they do it? Rig your caller ID to make it look like the call is really from an IRS number - either an (800) toll free number, or a (202) Washington DC Area Code. They give you an IRS badge number to convince you they are legit. They steal bills or other personal documents so they can recite part of your Social Security number or other personal data to convince you they have your records. They instill fear of impending arrest so you'll pay the supposed fine immediately.
What Should You Do?
Know that the IRS does NOT:
If you have any doubts, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.Tax identity theft is yet another scam to watch out for. If you've filed your taxes, but haven't received a refund, to to irs.gov/refunds to ensure a scammer hasn't stolen your hard-earned money. If you haven't filed yet, visit aarp.org/scamalert to find out what to watch for.
as published by AARP Fraud Watch
The above scam alert articles were published by AARP. An Answer to Care does not claim any ownership and is sharing these articles as a resource to protect seniors.