AARP Massachusetts Fraud Watch Network Update: October 2020

Posted on 10/02/20 by Cindy Campbell

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SCAM ALERT #1: CYBERSECURITY AWARENESS MONTH

When we think about protecting ourselves from cybercrime, we often stop at password protection and anti-virus software. But in today’s day and age, being cyber safe extends beyond our computers and phones.  Televisions, video games, doorbells, refrigerators and more can all be connected to the Internet. These are all ways that scammers can gain access to our personal data.

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month and AARP is joining federal law enforcement and other partners to urge consumers to take cyber safety measures throughout their homes and businesses. Make sure all of your devices are secure and your private data are protected. You can find some great tips on securing your devices at: www.staysafeonline.org

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SCAM ALERT #2:  UTILITY SCAMS

Some scams never go away regardless of the season. Utility scams are a perfect example. If it’s hot or cold out, scammers will call, email and even knock at your door demanding immediate payment for overdue bills or they’ll shut off your service. When it’s storm season and the power goes out, these crooks show up offering to restore service for a payment.

Whatever the season, the goal of these crooks is the same – to create a sense of panic in their targets in hopes they will act hastily and pay up. If you get a surprise visit or call from the “utility company,” ask questions like what your bill history is or what the individual’s employee ID number is, and then follow up to confirm before taking any action.

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SCAM ALERT #3: REAL ESTATE RENTAL SCAMS - COVID

These days, because of COVID-19, lots of financial transactions that used to take place in person now happen virtually. This creates an opportunity for scammers to pose as legitimate operators and steal people’s money. One place this is happening more often is in real estate – specifically fake home rentals.

Scammers take pictures from legitimate home rental offers and create their own fake rental listings. The rentals are often offered for well below market price and the crooks use the coronavirus as a reason why a tour and in-person meeting aren’t possible. Only after the victim sends their deposit and shows up at someone else’s home, do they find out it is a scam.

Be suspicious of any rental where you can’t physically visit the space and make sure you’re using secure and trusted websites when looking for a home rental.

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SCAM ALERT #4: WORK AT HOME SCAMS THAT COST YOU

Criminals are looking to take advantage of people who may have lost income during the pandemic. They post legitimate sounding work at home opportunities on trusted job boards.   The offer is typically for some basic accounting work. Once the target is “hired,” the “boss” sends money to their banking account. The boss explains that, once the check clears, the new hire needs to send that money using Venmo or CashApp to pay vendors. The new hire does as directed, and learns some days or weeks later that the check the “boss” sent was fake. The money sent to “vendors” was the target’s own money, and the “boss” disappears.

Look at all online employment opportunities with a healthy dose of skepticism. Find out all you can about the “employer.” If it doesn’t add up, move on to real opportunities.

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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You can find CDC’s latest coronavirus information at cdc.gov/coronavirus; AARP information and resources are at aarp.org/coronavirus. En español, visite aarp.org/elcoronavirus.

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