Two-thirds of adults in the United States believe fraud has hit a crisis level, according to a new AARP Fraud Watch Network report.
The new report also highlights the methods criminals use to steal money, such as cryptocurrency, gift cards and peer-to-peer payment apps. The findings suggest the need for Americans to share what they know about scams with their friends and family.
“We know from surveys that fraud is one of the top concerns of Montanans 50-plus,” said Tim Summers, AARP Montana State Director. “We also know that information is a consumer’s best defense against becoming a victim. AARP is here to serve as a resource on all sorts of scams and fraud. A big part of what we do is education and training on how to outsmart the con artists. I would urge anyone interested in protecting themselves to participate in one of our free fraud prevention webinars.” Visit aarp.org/MTEvents to find out about upcoming fraud prevention webinars.
Criminals often turn to atypical payment options in their scams like gift cards, peer-to-peer payment apps and cryptocurrency, because these forms of payment are processed quickly and cannot be reversed.
“Financial predators use a playbook to get us into a heightened emotional state,” said Kathy Stokes, AARP director of fraud prevention programs. “They know it’s hard to access our logical thinking when we are panicked, excited or scared. But knowing about specific scams makes it far less likely that we will engage with them.”
The AARP report showed one third of adults do not know it is a scam when someone directs you to use a cryptocurrency ATM to address some financial concern. In 2022 alone, the FBI says reported losses from fraud involving cryptocurrency reached $2.57 billion, a 183 percent increase from the previous year.
Gift cards also continue to be a common tool for criminals. About 25% of adults reported being unaware that being asked to make a payment or send money by gift card is a scam. A separate AARP report looking at the victim experience with gift card-related fraud emphasizes the emotional cost of these crimes in addition to the financial cost. Focus group participants felt there is little empathy for a crime that stole a reported $228 million from consumers in 2022 (FTC).
Peer-to-peer apps like Venmo, Zelle and CashApp are also used in scams. These apps do not offer consumers the same level of fraud protection as credit cards, but our research showed that 63% of adults are not aware of this distinction. These types of apps should be used as they are intended: to provide payment to a known and trusted contact.
Fraud is a severely underreported crime, even as nearly nine in 10 adults feel people should report incidents. Nearly 40% of Americans still don’t understand that victims do not lose money to scams because they are gullible. Victimization from a scam can happen to anyone. Such language subtly blames the victim, underscoring the need for society to shift how we talk about victimization. Previous AARP research found that placing the blame for fraud on the criminal and not on the victim could lead to more reporting of these crimes and could ultimately lead to more law enforcement action to combat the fraud epidemic.
To read the full report entitled Americans Are Aware of Fraud But Remain Vulnerable visit the AARP Policy Research Institute site at: aarp.org/pri
The AARP Fraud Watch Network is a free resource that equips consumers with up-to-date knowledge to spot and avoid scams, and connects those targeted by scams with our fraud helpline specialists who provide support and guidance on what to do next. Anyone can call the helpline at 877-908-3360. The Fraud Watch Network also offers free, facilitated peer discussion groups that seek to provide emotional support for those experiencing fraud; and advocates at the federal, state, and local levels to enact policy changes that protect consumers and enforce laws.
For Montana-specific resources, including a downloadable resource sheet of important Montana consumer protection phone numbers and web sites, visit aarp.org/MTFraudWatch.
About AARP: AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org, www.aarp.org/espanol or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspanol @AARPadvocates and @AliadosAdelante on social media.
About AARP Montana: For over 50 years, AARP has been working right here in big sky country to improve the lives of Montanans 50 plus. As one of Montanan’s a largest non-profit membership organizations, with more than 134,000 members, we advocate for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. We’re committed to helping already great communities across Montana become even better places for people of all ages to live and thrive by granting funds through our Community Challenge Grant Program. We fund small dollar, big impact projects in several categories, including transportation, safe streets, housing and public parks and trails.
We also connect Montanans with information and resources as well as help people connect with others who share their interests and passions – like music! As a main sponsor of the Helena Symphony’s Masterworks Series, we’re proud to help bring quality concerts to the community. By fighting on issues that matter most to Montana families and providing trusted information, we’re helping to empower Montanans to choose how they live as they age. As a nonpartisan organization, AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political action committees, campaigns or candidates. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org/MT or follow @AARPMontana on social media.
This story is provided by AARP Montana. Visit the AARP Montana page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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