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Jan 12, 2024

Don’t Let Scammers Spoil Your New Year

Sponsored Content provided by Rosalie Calarco - Associate State Director, Coastal Region, AARP


It’s New Year’s Resolution time and a chance to make a commitment to be fraud aware in 2024. Throughout the year, scammers will be on the prowl looking to steal our money or sensitive information. An important resolution for the new year is to remember these three words -- stop, think, and verify.

Criminal scammers need one thing to be successful. They need to get their victims into a heightened emotional where they don’t take the steps they normally do before making a decision – many call this being in “the ether.” Once someone is either so scared or excited and motivated to take action quickly they can miss some of the typical warning signs of a scam.
 
This is where the three words can help. Before making any sudden decision involving money try and stop by disengaging from the call, text or email. Once you have pressed pause think about how this situation or opportunity got put in front of you. Is it logical, does it make sense? And if you think it might be legitimate, then verify it on your own by contacting the source through other means, not the phone number or link that was sent to you.
 
“Stop, think,” and “verify” are three simple words could save you and your family a lot of money and emotional trauma in 2024.
 
Beware of debt relief scams
If you’re like a lot of people, you spent a lot this holiday season and you might be in the mood to tackle your debt in the New Year. Getting yourself out of debt is hard work. It takes time and discipline. Be wary of offers of guaranteed quick fixes. 
 
Fraud criminals use all sorts of pitches to claim to help you become debt-free. These offers usually involve up-front fees, bad advice like stopping communication with your creditors and vague details on what services they actually provide. If you need help getting out of debt, turn to an organization like the nonprofit National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
 
Utility scams can keep you in the cold
Winter is upon us and with temperatures plummeting in many areas, keeping the heat on is critical — a fact that fraud criminals try to take advantage of. Each winter, utility scams spike as scammers claiming to be from the utility company say you haven’t been paying your bill and they threaten to cut off service if you don’t make an immediate payment. The goal of these crooks is to create a sense of panic – when we react first with emotion, it’s hard to access logical thinking, and the criminals are adept with using this tactic. Their hope is that we stay in that state of panic long enough to complete a payment. 

If you get a surprise call from the “utility company” threatening to shut off your service, hang up the phone. Contact your provider using the customer service number on a recent bill (or log into their website or app if that’s an option). Chances are high you will find out your payments are up to date.

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
 
 

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