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Three Scams to Watch Out For

Posted on 06/26/19 by Natalie Snyder

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Learn how to spot and avoid common scams, so that you can avoid fraud. Here are some common scams to watch out for, resources to help you learn about scams in your area, and information about upcoming events.

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Phone Scams
Once they get you on the line, phone scammers use false promises, aggressive sales pitches and phony threats to pry loose information they can use to steal your money or identity (or both). Whether live or automated, scam callers often pose as representatives of government agencies or familiar tech, travel, retail or financial companies, supposedly calling with important information. It might be good news, or it might be bad. Whatever the issue, it can be resolved if you’ll just, say, provide your Social Security number or make an immediate payment.

What to watch for:

  • Unsolicited calls from people claiming to work for a government agency, public utility or major tech firm, like Microsoft or Apple. These companies and institutions will rarely call you unless they have first communicated by other means or you have contacted them.
  • Unsolicited calls from charity fundraisers, especially after disasters.
  • Calls pitching products or services with terms that sound too good to be true. Common scam offers include free product trials, cash prizes, cheap travel packages, medical devices, preapproved loans, debt reduction, and low-risk, high-return investments.
  • An automated sales call from a company you have not authorized to contact you. That’s an illegal robocall and almost certainly a scam.

Social Security Scams
In a social security scam fake SSA employees call people with warnings that their Social Security numbers had been linked to criminal activity and suspended. The caller asks you to confirm your number so he or she can reactivate it or issue you a new one, for a fee. This is no emergency but a ploy to get money and personal data: Social Security does not block or suspend numbers, ever. This con is sometimes executed via robocall, other times you might get a call from a supposed SSA representative bearing good news — say, a cost-of-living increase in your benefits. To get the extra money, you just have to verify your name, date of birth and Social Security number.

What to watch for:

  • You get an unsolicited call from someone claiming to work for SSA. Except in rare circumstances, you will not get a call from Social Security unless you have already been in contact with the agency.
  • The caller asks for your Social Security number — again, something an actual SSA employee wouldn’t do.
  • A call or email threatens consequences, such as arrest, loss of benefits or suspension of your Social Security number, if you do not provide a payment or personal information.

Health Insurance Scams
In a health insurance scam fraudsters try to convince you they have a simple solution to the complexity and expense of getting covered. They cold-call potential marks or generate leads through websites offering information about “comprehensive” health plans that meet “Obamacare” requirements. Some feature the names and logos of major insurers, or even AARP. People who respond are peppered with pitches promising full coverage with low premiums, deductibles and co-pays. Scammers will tell you they need personal information to verify an application or that they can help you choose the right plan, for a fee.

What to watch for:

  • High-pressure sales pitches that push low-cost plans or offer special rates if you sign up right away.
  • Claims that a plan is licensed under ERISA, the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Insurance companies are licensed by the states, not by any federal body.
  • A plan requires you to join an “association” or “union” to get covered. These may be fake organizations designed to create the illusion that you are buying group health insurance.
  • Someone contacting you about health coverage claims to be from the government. No government representative will ever try to sell you insurance.

Resources available to you

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free “watchdog alerts” by clicking here or by texting FWN to 50757. To find out about scams in your area review our scam-tracking map, and call our toll-free fraud helpline if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.

Save the date

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Join the AARP Fraud Watch Network and AARP Pennsylvania October 29 for a presentation by Frank W. Abagnale (subject of the movie "Catch Me if You Can") on protecting yourself and your family from identity theft. The event is free. His advice is invaluable. For over four decades, Frank W. Abagnale has advised the FBI on how to outsmart con artists and now he’s coming to Pennsylvania to relay how to best spot and avoid scams so you can protect your family. As one of the world’s most respected authorities on forgery, embezzlement and secure documents, Abagnale has joined forces with the AARP Fraud Watch Network and AARP Pennsylvania.

To request a fraud prevention presentation in your area for a group of 25 or more please email

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