AARP Massachusetts Fraud Watch Network Update: May 2021

Posted on 05/05/21 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.

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SCAM ALERT #1: DATA ON GIFT CARD PAYMENTS

Is it a scam if someone directs you to pay a debt or other obligation with a gift card? The answer is yes – in 100% of cases. But alarmingly, 1 in 4 people surveyed by AARP got this question wrong – at a time when we’re seeing an increase in the use of “payment by gift card” as a scam tactic.

Since 2018, gift cards have been one of the most popular forms of payment requested by criminals according to the Federal Trade Commission. Gift cards are easy to access, virtually untraceable and less likely to raise red flags. As soon as the card numbers are shared with the scammer, the money – and the scammer – disappears.

AARP’s survey also found that one in three US adults have either been asked to pay for some obligation with a gift card or know someone who has, and one in ten have followed through with the request. Help spread the word. Anytime you are directed to pay a debt or other obligation with a gift card, it is a scam.

Businessman Filling Survey Form On Computer At Desk

SCAM ALERT #2:  VACCINE SURVEYS

Con artists are trying to take advantage of the millions of Americans who have received their COVID vaccines by sending fake surveys asking about their experience. These emails and texts look legitimate and may even include the logos of the vaccine manufacturers, but what they are really looking for is your sensitive personal information.

Three things included in these “surveys” let you know they are a scam. First, they offer a prize for participating. Second, the message says you need to reply “right away.” And third, if you do engage with the “survey” you are asked to provide a credit card or other payment information.

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SCAM ALERT #3: RETAIL REFUND SCAMS

A burgeoning scam impersonates Amazon or another big retailer, claiming you are owed a refund and that you need to call a number or click a link to get it processed. These paths always lead to a scammer – who will try and convince you to allow them to remotely access your device.

They will “show” you the refund owed (let’s say it’s $100). Then they will convince you to sign into your bank account online so the can “show” you the deposit they are ready to make – only they show you a fake page in which it appears they mistakenly refunded you $10,000, for example. They swear they will be fired if you don’t help recover the mistake, and ultimately seek to convince you to send the money back by purchasing a prepaid debit or gift card for the amount and reading the numbers off the back.

Know this – retailers don’t work this way. And anytime you are asked to purchase a gift card – to buy something, to pay an obligation – anything, it’s a scam 100% of the time.

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SCAM ALERT #4: RENTAL PROPERTY SCAMS

The post-pandemic demand for travel has the summer travel industry booming. But, rather than looking to hotels for overnight stays, travelers are increasingly looking at home rentals. While these properties offer privacy and distance from crowds, they could pose threats to consumers’ wallets.

Crooks steal photos and descriptions of properties on real estate websites, then advertise rentals at rock-bottom prices. After a deal is struck — typically by email — renters are asked for payment upfront – often by purchasing a gift card (Google Play is a common one) and sharing the numbers off the back. When they arrive, they discover that the rental doesn't exist, or that the actual owner isn't renting it. When renting your vacation getaway this summer, book on websites you know and trust and do your homework to verify that the property really exists and is a rental.  Watch out for anyone who ask you for payment by anything other than a credit card. 

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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