AARP Massachusetts Fraud Watch Network update - December 2020

Posted on 12/01/20 by Cindy Campbell

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.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network is:

  • An Educator: Get real-time alerts about the latest scams, tips on how to spot them, and the inside scoop on how con artists think so you can outsmart them before they strike.
  • A Watchdog:  Our nationwide scam tracking map gives you access to a network of people who've spotted scams and the opportunity to pass along your own experiences, so together we can beat con artists at their own game.
  • A Resource:  Get connected to a real live person trained in how to avoid fraud and advise you if you or a loved one has been scammed by calling our fraud hotline or attending a forum in your community.
  • Free for Everyone:  Anyone, of any age, can access our resources at no cost.  
Computer being corrupted

SCAM ALERT #1: MAKING YOUR HOME CYBER SECURE

With nine in ten U.S. adults online these days for work, finances, shopping or entertainment, criminals have many opportunities to steal money or sensitive personal information. When you factor in the many devices in our homes linked to the internet – computers, gaming systems, TVs, smartphones - the opportunities grow.

To keep your home network safe from criminals, follow these three home security rules. Keep the operating systems, web browsers and security software on all of your connected devices updated. If your internet router has the same name and password it came with, change both. And engage your firewall – your operating system or antivirus software should come with a firewall that guards your system from uninvited sources; make sure yours is turned on.

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SCAM ALERT #2:  FACEBOOK MARKETPLACE

The holidays are getting close and many of us are looking for those last-minute deals. One place people are turning to is Facebook Marketplace, but beware because scammers are lurking. The spike in online shopping has unfortunately led many victims right to the criminals who offer deals too good to pass up.

This fall, the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline has received a high volume of calls from people losing money to scams on Facebook Marketplace. Here are some tips to avoid online sales scams. Before making that purchase, research what similar items are selling for elsewhere. The greater the deal, the greater the likelihood that it could be a scam. Buy local versus having something shipped, and arrange to meet in a public space. Pay cash – if asked to pay by a payment app, wire transfer or gift card, refuse. Finally, if you need to get an item shipped, use a credit card, which has fraud protections.

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SCAM ALERT #3: GIFT CARD SCAMS

According to a recent AARP survey, more than 2/3 of US consumers will purchase a gift card for someone this holiday season. While these gifts are easy to give and popular to get, they are also open to fraud. The same survey found that one in three people have either given or received a gift card with no funds on it. Remember these tips whenever buying gift cards.

If buying from a store rack, inspect the card before purchase to make sure that the packaging hasn’t been tampered with and that the code hasn’t been revealed. Better yet, buy gift cards online directly from the retailer, restaurant or other issuer. Be wary of buying from gift card resellers- if you do, make sure they offer a guarantee.

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SCAM ALERT #4: PEER TO PEER PAYMENT APPS

In the time of COVID, peer-to-peer payment apps have become more popular than ever. According to a recent AARP survey on online holiday shopping, more than half of US adults plan to use a peer-to-peer payment app for gift purchases. It’s important to know that some apps are safer than others.

PayPal, for example, is set up for users to make purchases with businesses where it’s offered. But other popular payment apps like Venmo, Zelle and Cash App, are intended for use among friends and family – to split a dinner bill or pay the babysitter. Fraud losses are generally not recoverable when you use these apps to pay for a product that never comes. To protect your assets, remember that using cash or a credit card, which comes with fraud protections, are still your best bets.

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SCAM ALERT #5: COVID HEALTH SCAMS

2020 has been one for the record books and it looks like we will end it in much the way we spent it – trying to beat back the virus. One thing to remember is that while most of us are trying to keep our loved ones safe, scammers are trying to make things worse. During 2020 more than a quarter million people have fallen victim to COVID related scams, many promising miracle cures, test kits or vaccines.

Remember whenever the virus is spreading, tests are hard to come by, or a vaccine is close, scammers will be lurking. Look to your health care provider or state and local health department for information on the virus, testing or vaccine availability and never give out your health care account numbers or personal financial information to people you don’t already know and trust.

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.

This story is provided by AARP Massachusetts. Visit the AARP Massachusetts page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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