AARP Massachusetts Fraud Watch Network Update: January 2021

Posted on 01/08/21

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.  
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SCAM ALERT #1: THREE WORDS FOR 2021

The AARP Fraud Watch Network is dedicated to providing people with simple tips to keep them safe from scammers. In 2021 we’ve got three simple words to keep you protected: Stop, Think and Verify.

When you get an unexpected offer or alarming news over the phone or other device, stop and ask yourself, “Is this for real?” Next think about content of the message. Is it too good to be true? Do you have to act now? Is there a threat involved? If the answer is yes, you should end contact. If you are concerned the communication may have been valid, independently verify it. For example, if the caller claimed to be with the government, look up the agency’s phone number (without relying on the results of a web search, as the numbers that result could connect you to a scammer) and inquire if there is an issue.

Caring healthcare professional places bandage on man's arm

SCAM ALERT #2:  COVID VACCINE SCAMS

If 2020 taught us anything it’s that scammers follow the headlines. While we’re all relieved to turn the calendar to 2021, the uncertainty that marked the last 12 months isn’t going away any time soon. And scammers thrive on uncertainty.

One particular uncertainty right now is when we’ll get our COVID vaccines. In the early weeks and months, expect the limited supply of vaccines to be available only to certain high-risk populations. So, when you see an ad, email, text message, or you pick up a call and the offer is to reserve your vaccine for a fee, know it’s a scam. Listen to your health care provider and health authorities for guidance and ignore all else.

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SCAM ALERT #3: SCAM MAP

Scammers make their living by keeping up their ploys day in and day out. Often, they aren’t solo con acts but are part of a large criminal enterprise scheming to fund illegal activity, from child trafficking to terrorism. And often, our reaction to hearing about a scam is to shake our heads and not understand how someone could “fall for it”.

Once we know, though, that these are sophisticated criminal enterprises, and that the money they steal funds deeply troubling criminal activity, we could perhaps have more empathy for the victims and more desire to shut it down.

See for yourself how ubiquitous scams are. Thousands of people report scams they’ve seen or experienced on AARP’s scam-tracking map at www.aarp.org/scammap. Add your story to help others spot and avoid criminal scammers.

Internet danger words and Caution tape

SCAM ALERT #4: NEW YEARS RESOLUTION: NO NUDES

If we could share just one New Year’s Resolution for 2021 it might be this: don’t send nude photos. While this might seem like a joke, it is very serious to victims of romance scams who have been extorted because they shared private photos with someone who turned out to be a scammer.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline has seen a sharp increase in calls from romance scam victims who have shared compromising photos. Scammers, who have been particularly active during the pandemic, develop virtual relationships with victims online and eventually ask for seductive photos. Once they have them, they then threaten to share the photos with the victim’s personal and professional contacts unless the victim pays money. The fact that scammers can readily violate people’s trust in such a personal way is a reminder that you can never fully trust someone you’ve never met in person.

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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Find information about getting a COVID-19 vaccine in your state. CDC information is available at cdc.gov/coronavirus; additional AARP information and resources are at aarp.org/coronavirus. En español, visite aarp.org/elcoronavirus.

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