AARP Expert Amy Nofziger
Pen pals are a great way to find connection and talk about our favorite hobbies, sports teams, etc. I have even seen some senior centers sponsoring pen pal programs for their members. Sadly, though, as your resident AARP Fraud Expert, I must add a few safety precautions.
As much as we want to assume everyone looking for a pen pal is an honest, upstanding citizen, from my 20 years in the fraud business, I know they are not always. Scammers will try any method and tactic to steal from you. They will create a fictional persona to befriend you to gain trust and then ask for money or personal information. A few things to keep in mind:
- Do not give any personal or identifying information they could use to steal from you or create an Identify theft situation.
- Do not post your mailing address on public websites (if you want to share with someone do so via a private message), specific date of birth or anything too personal.
Here are some other red flags your new pen pal might be a scammer:
- They will ask for money to help with an emergency. Do not send money, ever!
- After building a friendship, they might ask for nude photos. Seems crazy right, but it happens more than you would think. They get you to send these and then try to extort money from you with threats of sending them to your work, church or friends.
- They will claim to be from the United States but stuck outside the country on a work trip that was interrupted by the travel restrictions or they are on a mission trip. There are many mission trip “doctors” who had their wallets stolen in foreign countries recently and only their new friends can help them. Cough, Cough, of course these are not doctors but scammers trying to steal from you.
- They ask for prepaid gift cards, wire transfers, cash or for you to open a bank account. Do not ever send money. If they ask for money ignore the request and stop communication with the person.
If you have any gut feelings that something seems off. Listen to that feeling, it’s usually correct. Also, report any suspicious request to the AARP Fraud Watch Helpline at 877-908-3360 we are here to help.
If you'd like to connect and become pen pals with a fellow AARP Online Community member, check out this topic today.