Scammers Target American Indian and Alaska Native Communities, AARP Research Shows

Posted on 08/31/23


American Indians and Alaska Natives report experiencing a wide range of financial scams, with older adults being particularly vulnerable, according to new AARP-sponsored research. The research included focus groups and individual interviews in Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico and Vermont. It is the first research of its kind for AARP as it focused solely on scams targeting the American Indians and Alaskan Native communities.

The reported scams include social media, online ads, emails, text messages, phone calls, mailings and face-to-face interactions. Reported scams include;

  • Sales of fake regalia, Native art and homeopathic products 
  • Fake lottery, charity and romance scams 
  • Student loan repayment scams 
  • Impostor scams such as IRS, Social Security or utilities 
  • Fake offers to eliminate credit card debt 
  • Fake business and property opportunities and rental scams 

“Scam victims tend to underreport fraud because they feel embarrassed, self-blame, or fear of shaming. Reality is fraud victims are not ‘tricked’ or ‘duped’. Criminals robbed them and should be treated with the same compassion as any other victim of a crime,” said Mashell Sourjohn, AARP Oklahoma Sr. Associate State Director of Outreach. “When victims don’t feel judged, they feel more empowered and confident to report the financial crime, get help, and help prevent others from becoming a target.”
The research also showed that lack of trust in government, law enforcement and banks, plus the general sense of shame or embarrassment, leads to many of these crimes going unreported. Survey participants noted their native languages do not have words for scam or fraud. Instead, words like tricking, cheating, lying, stealing, and fake describe the experiences.

AARP emphasized the importance of community education led by trusted partners to raise awareness, focusing on breaking down stigma among victims. “AARP Oklahoma and the AARP Fraud Watch Network offer vast resources available to anyone, including a free fraud prevention kit, which may be requested at,” Sourjohn said.

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

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