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Ask The Expert: Get your questions about fraud answered

Have you or a loved one been a target of an impostor scam? Savvy scammers can pose as government officials, a romantic interest, or even a grandchild.

 

AARP Fraud Expert Amy Nofziger is here now thru February 29 to answer your questions about protecting yourself, family and friends from impostor scams. Post below for your chance to have your questions answered or share your experiences. 

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Trusted Contributor

I recently received some letters from local agencies requesting that i would pay them to what is owed. Should i wait until I receive offical notice, or shall I want for them to call to confirm?

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AARP Expert

@OlifIt's hard to tell what the letters are without seeing them, but my suggestion would be to 1. go through your records, do you owe them money or are these charities sending a request for donation? 2. look the company up online and check out their consumer reviews 3. call the correct phone number for them (look it up online on their website or in the phone book) and ask them about the letters. 4. you can always call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 1-877-908-3360 and ask to speak to a fraud specialist who can try to help decipher the request in the letters.

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Newbie

I was very recently the victim of a computer scam. I closed out of a program and suddenly a voice came on the computer saying my computer has been infected with various viruses. The screen looked like a Microsoft Windows screen. There was an 866 number of the Windows logo. I called and a gentleman answered advising he was aware of the problem. I was in panic mode. I tried reaching my I.T. guy. This fellow required that I buy Google Gift cards in various denominations. He said my credit card would show a credit. Bottom line each vendor gave me the gift cards except Target. Security director said I had been scammed. I was shocked.

What recourse, if any do I have? My bank advised this was a voluntary transaction. They would not issue me a credit. The merchants say to take it up with AMEX.

I didn't know what a Google gift card is! They are investigating the scam. I filed a report with the FBI and local police department. 

The scammer was very smooth. Total victimization.

Any suggestions. 

Thanks

JDT

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AARP Expert

@JamesT57610Oh, I'm so very sorry this happened to you. This scam is so popular and has stolen billions from people just like yourself. You are right in saying these scammers are so smooth, they know exactly what to say and how to steal from you. I've talked to victims of this scam who are in ages of 20 to 95 from retired teachers to CEO's of companies. It can happen to anyone.

I'm glad you reported it to all the authorities and I would continue to talk to your credit card company to see if they will work with you. Have you checked the gift cards to see if there is any balance left on them? Reason these criminals ask for payment in pre-paid gift cards are because they are virtually untraceable and many people, like yourself, don't know what they are used for, so when someone tells you, with authority to buy one of them, you do. Gift cards should only be used to give as a gift to a family member or friend, never to pay for a service like in this case, or to pay a fine with the government, as some of the scams implore you to do. I'm sorry to be a pessimist here, but in my 18 years I can't even count on one hand when people have got their money back. The scammers steal your money and it's very hard to trace where it went and who has it. I'm sorry you were a victim of this horrible scam. Please call our Fraud Watch Helpline if you need more help or support 1-877-908-3360, our fraud volunteers are here to help.

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Newbie

This happened to me last week.  When the "Goggle" message came up, I deleted it and shut my computer down & when I waited a few minutes & signed back in everything seemed to be back to normal.  So far no more problems.

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Super Contributor

I have calls from Guam.  Do you have any suggestions, Amy?

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AARP Expert

@MartinG987436I assume you are not expecting any calls from Guam? If not, you can certainly block the number, this will only help if they are using the same phone number. You can work with your telephone provider to see if they can block calls from this particular area code. You can also look into call blocking technology, especially if it's on your smart phone where you are getting these calls.

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Contributor

I get so many calls that go to voicemail but leave no message that it gets very time consuming to clear them from voicemail.  If I;m home and can check the caller ID and it's an obvious scam call

(crazy name - invalid area code/exchange combo etc.) I use the two thumb one second combo

(press on followed by off immediately).  Is this a bad procedure to follow?  I seem to remember a

comment about letting the scammers know that my number is an active one by responding in any way.

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AARP Expert

@Arubafan  I wish there was a magic bullet to handle the calls, you are just hanging up and that's great. I think the most important thing is to never engage, and you are not engaging by hanging up on them, so if it works for you, keep doing it! I prefer to let them go to voicemail and then just delete so they never get a pick up, but as again, not engaging with them is the most important thing.

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Contributor

We are getting spam calls now that shows our name and number on our caller ID. I picked up because I thought it was my husband calling home.  Where it was someone stating they were Microsoft. Today we received one with a local store on the caller ID.  Is there anything we can do about this.  

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AARP Expert

@tn47614591 I have received one of those as well, with my OWN name, and it certainly caught me off guard. The scammers are using a spoofing technology to minic your phone number or a local phone number in the hopes you pick up, and it works for them. My best advice is don't pick up unless you absolutely know who is calling, let it go to voicemail. If it's important they will leave a message. Now that you know about spoofing, next time you see a phone number similar to yours, you can assume it's a spoof.

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Periodic Contributor

I'm getting texts about confirming an Amazon order. I have not ordered from Amazon. I feel sorry for all who have. I feel it's a scam to get a delivery number and redirect it or for the scammer to cancel the order and get a refund. I think I heard a niece had some problem with an Amazon order that way. What do you know?

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AARP Expert

@LindaS567836 The "Amazon" scam is one of the biggest email scams right now. We are hearing from hundreds of folks on our Fraud Watch Helpline about this scam. The scammers are sending out millions of emails in hopes that one of their recipients has ordered from the company recently. Which many people do use that service, so it works. They will usually say there is an issue with your order and click on a link to verify your account, which leads the unsuspecting victim to a fake website where they will collect your personal and financial information. If you get one of these emails and have recently ordered something, type the correct website into your browser and log into your account and verify there are not any issues.

 

Check out the fraud resource center tip sheet on phishing scams for more information. https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/phishing.html?intcmp=AE-FWN-LIB3-POS7

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Social Butterfly

It’s praiseworthy Amy Nofziger what you and AARP do to coach its readers and members about how and why they should protect their identity and not become a victim of a scam. Keep it up because I’m convinced the only way to defeat these scammers is to educate the unsuspecting among us.

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AARP Expert

@ReTiReD51 I appreciate you and all of our online contributers! By sharing tips and education on how to protect yourself helps each other. I think you are spot on by saying education is key to stopping these scams! Let's keep up the good fight! Thank you for sharing your tips. 

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Periodic Contributor

I agree, we all need to be watchdogs and educate everyone we know about scams and how they happen as soon as possible. I put it out on facebook. The older the wiser. The younger ones are smart but not always aware. Us older ones are targeted more (or it was that way before) so can be on the alert more. But now since everyone does everything by phone, young and older how can we make that safe? Spread the word don't take calls from unknown, don't even look at texts or emails from unknown.... but how else can we protect our phones? I don't even use wifi now since I did buy somethings from EBay with PayPal. Could I get that hacked while on Wifi?
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AARP Expert

@LindaS567836 Thank you for sharing the tips via your Facebook page. Have you checked out the Fraud Watch Resource center? There are about 50 different tip sheets on all the scams, here is the link. Scroll to the bottom and you'll see them. These are great to share. https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/?cmp=RDRCT-CON-FRD-FRDWCHNET_SEP2018

 

If you are using WiFi in your home and are required to use a password to get into it, it's most likely safe and secure, but if you are not sure, I would reach out to your provider and ask them to verify the security of it. Don't trust free public WiFi though, like the ones at the airport or coffee shops, that don't require passwords. These are NOT secure and your personal information could be stolen.

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Trusted Contributor

for me i just ignore anything that comes my way, even if it was legitimate. i try to ignore any phone calls, i simply do not get into anything that can not be verified; but even then something does get through here & there. hopefully it wouldn't be anything major!

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Honored Social Butterfly

 

Federal Trade Commission 06/2019 - How to Block Unwanted Calls 

 

Course if it is spoofers or scammers, they just start a new number and the number you blocked is then useless.

 

The government passed the TRACE ACT in 2019 and President Trump signed it into law in December 2019.

 

Consumer Report 12/31/2019 - How the New Robocall Law Would Protect Consumers 

 

from the link ~

The so-called TRACED Act, which was signed into law by President Trump on Tuesday, should make it easier for consumers to identify robocalls so that they can avoid answering them.

 

The legislation requires telecom carriers to implement, at no extra charge, a number-authentication system to help consumers identify who’s calling. It also increases penalties for robocallers who flout the law. However, it didn’t clarify what constitutes consumer consent to receive the calls.

read more at the link ~

 

Course you all do remember how long it took to get SS # off of our Medicare cards - government moves at a snails pace.

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Contributor

I have a blocker on my phone and boy it has gotten a lot of calls stopped - this is my cell phone - they mark them as high risk or scam and I love it. The phone rings and the blocker picks it up and stops it.Yes I agree many of the calls are repeated on another telephone number.

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AARP Expert

@CarolH429577I'm glad you found something that works for you! I love the warnings too. Sometimes I get so busy during the day that when the phone rings I reach to grab it and that little extra warning is a great reminder to let it go to voicemail (which they usually don't leave a message)

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AARP Expert

Recently, I noticed that my smart phone is now giving me a warning about the call I'm receiving. Yesterday I got a message saying "possible scam" and then this morning already I received one that said "political call." I like the warnings. Does your phone have this?

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Contributor

I just don't answer the phone unless I know the number. I only use a cell phone so I just block the numbers I don't know. This includes text messages which you can also put a block on. Also, DO NOT CLICK ON LINKS OR RESPOND, then they know that they have a good number to keep calling or texting.

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Contributor

How do you block a text message?

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AARP Expert

@dmjmlmI know on my phone, I can click on the callers (texters) info and then at the bottom it states "block this caller" and then click on that which will block their texts as well. Here is the instructions for Apple. https://support.apple.com/guide/iphone/filter-and-block-messages-iph203ab0be4/ios and Samsung https://www.samsung.com/au/support/mobile-devices/block-or-unblock-numbers-from-sending-me-a-text-me...

 

 

 

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AARP Expert

@jc5613Great advice! It's something I share with people as well, do not pick up your phone unless you absolutely know who is calling, let it go to voicemail. Some people say "well what if it's my doctor, or a friend?" If it's important they will leave you a message.

Another tip that we share is that if there is someone in your life who picks up the phone without knowing who it is, put a "refusal script" by their phone. This can say anything like "Thank you for calling, but I don't do business over the phone, I check all offers with my lawyer." This helps give a script to someone who might get caught off guard by the phone call and an easy phrase to say so they can hang up. Something even as simple as a reminder on a post-it note near the phone that says "remember, Amy/Mom/Dad/Grandma (whoever), this might be a scam, do not give personal or financial information to anyone without calling me first."

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Periodic Contributor

Get an answering machine.  Close to 100% of the junk calls hang up after the beep.  Sometimes when I get multiple calls from the same number, I dial back and again almost 100% of the time, either the call doesn't go through or it is an unworking number.  One time I got through to someone and we had a short conversation.  Apparently, both her name and number had been spoofed - so I let her know.  I get used to get 20-30 calls a day.  I am down to less than 10.

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AARP Expert

@RobDuncan48YES! I agree to your advice about everyone getting an answering machine, if they don't already have one and let all unrecognized calls go to voicemail.

I don't encourage calling phone numbers you don't recognize back though, this just gives the scammers a leg up on knowing which phone numbers have a responsive person behind that particular phone number. Just ignore them, block them, junk them, whatever to block that number. They do switch around and change numbers alot, but in my own life, blocking numbers has reduced the volume of calls I receive.

 

Thanks again for the tip on the voicemail! It's a great barrier between us and the scammers.

And everyone... if you have a loved one in your life who doesn't have a voicemail and picks up their phone, maybe that could be your next holiday or birthday present for them, maybe not as exciting as flowers, but certainly helps keep us safe.

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Periodic Contributor

Another GREAT, FREE service which blocks robo calls is "NOmo Robo" .com. According to one of their recently released news releases, they've successfully intercepted AND stopped more than a billion robo calls! Since signing up for this FREE service, we rarely receive unwanted calls!

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