The summer may be winding down, but when it comes to fraud and scams, things are still red hot. Here are some tips from the AARP Fraud Watch Network can help you steer clear of fraud.
ALWAYS WATCH OUT FOR IMPOSTERS
One of the most effective things that criminals can do to gain your confidence is impersonate an organization that you do business with and trust. Sadly, no one is immune from this. Not even AARP.
Recently, the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline has been receiving calls about a scam involving phone calls from someone claiming to be with "AARP Security Systems" (or something similar sounding). We are told the first question they ask is whether you own your home and then they hang up.
We haven’t yet heard from anyone who lost money or sensitive information to these scam calls, but that could always change. Don’t engage with anyone claiming to be from AARP Security Systems, and if you get a call like this, let us know by calling the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 1-877-908-3360, or reporting it on our scam map (www.aarp.org/scammap).
BEWARE OF “SMISHING”
As more of us catch on to scam calls to our smartphones and block them or don’t answer them, scammers have taken to texting. “Smishing” is the term of art: SMS + phishing. Just as scammers phish by casting a wide net with email, so they do with smishing.
The same things that we suggest in order to avoid phishing attacks apply to smishing. But texts live in this space of immediacy – scammers know we are likely to respond much faster to a text than an email. To thwart their efforts, take a pause and consider the message. Is this really my bank, or Amazon, or PayPal, or the IRS texting me? Don’t click links – access the company or agency in a way you know to be safe and see if there’s an issue. Otherwise, don’t engage.
Utility scams heat up as the temperatures rise (and when they fall), so much so that the Federal Trade Commission ranks utility impostors among the top reported scams. In this one, you typically get a call, email or text saying your account is past due and you must pay immediately, or they will cut off your power. Another tactic is the “utility” claiming you overpaid your bill, and they request your bank account information to issue a refund. Utility scammers can also show up at your door after a power outage or severe storm offering to get your power back on for a fee.
Utility companies typically don’t do business this way. Any unusual communication from your utility should raise a flag. Disengage and contact your provider at a number you know to be legitimate (off of a recent statement, for example). Chances are you’ll learn that there is no problem to address.
Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network is a free resource for all. Learn how to proactively spot scams or get guidance if you’ve been targeted. Visit www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or call our dedicated helpline to speak to a fraud specialist at 1-877-908-3360.
Michael Olender is the state director of AARP North Carolina. He was appointed this position after serving as Associate State Director for AARP in the Charlotte region and managing the work of AARP in communities across the state. Prior to North Carolina, Olender was the Associate State Director for AARP New York leading AARP’s work in Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island and the Lower Hudson Valley.
Prior to joining AARP in 2007 Mike worked as a community organizer in New Jersey on a variety of consumer issues including health care reform, affordable prescription drugs, utilities and other issues affecting New Jersey residents. A graduate from Rutgers University, Michael resides in Apex, North Carolina.