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Community Manager
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Ask the Expert: Get tips to protect yourself and your family from scams and fraud

Scams are constantly changing and often unique, raising questions like whether you’ve been targeted. AARP Expert Amy Nofziger is here thru April 26th providing answers, as well as sharing important tips to help you stay safe.

 

**Learn & Earn with AARP Rewards: When you post a question for our expert, you're eligible to earn 50 points via code emailed to you.

 

Thanks for being here, we look forward to your questions!

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AARP Expert

Thank you for all of your terrific questions over the past two weeks. I know it can be difficult to know where to turn to for reliable information on scams and fraud, and I hope you’ve found this Q&A helpful.  I also encourage you to check out some fraud prevention resources from the AARP Fraud Watch Network that are free and available to all – all of which can be found at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

 

  • Find support with the AARP Fraud Helpline877-908-3360.  Whether you have questions about a possible scam or have experienced a one, our fraud specialists can provide guidance on what to do next.
  • Look up a scam in AARP’s Fraud Resource Center, with dozens of tip sheets on how to recognize and avoid common scams, including videos that break down how scams work.
  • See or report scams in your area with our Scam-Tracking Map.
  • Get regular updates on the latest scams by signing up for biweekly Watchdog Alerts or text FWN to 50757 to receive text alerts.

Thank you everyone, Amy

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Newbie

@anofziger17, I'm a person that has been compromised ..; I learned after many visits to a medical professional and unofficially confirmed .., that my ear was micro-chipped without my knowledge which has been disrupting my lively hood (my source of income discontinued to stealing mail); What does one do to protect ourselves after your entire privacy has been compromised?

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AARP Expert

@d374542a Sounds like there is alot going on right now. I would suggest reaching out to your local law enforcement or the FBI and ask them for some advice. 

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Trusted Contributor

@anofziger17, you know what i do to protect myself: i just ignore them. i just assume they are frauds whether they are legitimate or not. i erase all emails, i hang up on all calls asking for donations or saying i "won" some trip. my mother fell for every call for donations that came in the mail. she donated to every one. i hate to admit i did so at one time. i have since learned my lesson. even with publishers clearinghouse i don't pay for a product i order until i get it in my hands.

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Contributor

Who should not have access to your social security card and number?

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AARP Expert

@ShahedaJ26254 if you don't mind, I'm going to turn your question around and say "who can have access..." 

There are a few situations in which you need to provide you SSN to a business, including

  • becoming an employee or independent contractor for a business (to track wages)
  • IRS usually
  • engaging in a banking, financial or real estate transaction 
  • applying for group health insurance through your employer
  • applying for credit (and/or checking your credit)

Even when there is no law requiring it, a business might request your SSN and deny you service if you refuse to provide it.

 

ALWAYS be careful with who you give this information to and ask if there is another number you can use. NEVER give this number to anyone calling you, texting or emailing you. 

Also, consider putting a freeze on your credit report, so if you number is compromised and someone tries to open credit in your name. They will not be able to https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs

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Info Seeker

HOW CAN I PREVENT OR BE SCAM FREE

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AARP Expert

@crystala270792 Great question, there are so many ways to stay safe, but I always recommend things that we can start doing TODAY! 

1. Do not pick up the phone to unknown numbers, let them go to voicemail

2. Place a post it note near your computer or phone that reminds you to not click on any links in unsolicited emails or texts and also, if you ever receive a pop up stating that your computer is at risk, do not click on it or call the phone number. It's a scam

3. Check your credit report. You can do it for free at www.annualcreditreport.com once you review it, then consider putting a freeze on your credit.

4. Never, ever, ever buy a gift card for anyone who calls you on the phone or you meet via the computer. These are always a scam.

 

If you are interested in getting help with checking your credit report. Our AARP staff colleagues in CO are having a free event this coming Thursday, here is the sign up information. You don't need to be in CO to join.  https://aarp.cvent.com/events/aarp-co-check-your-credit-report-colorado-day-4-29-21/event-summary-03...

 

 

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Newbie

Speaking of email, @anofziger17, I have a yahoo account for uses that will probably end up with spam (i.e. the company sells your information). The account has false personal information. I was glad I did this because yahoo recently had a large hacker incident/ confidentiality breach, but in my case, all they got was my wrong birth date. Same goes for facebook.

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Conversationalist

Here we go again wuth SS fraud, @anofziger17. Yesterday I received a call from some goof representing SS. His plan was to  scare me that my payments are going to be suspended NOW if you don't  push 1 now.  He says he needs your SS and Bank account number to verify my idenity. When I asked him  you called me and are from SS you should have my info.       He  started  saying he wasn't kidding we need verification of my idenity.  Again I repeated my previous statement and said if you really knew me you would know I have no number I am an illegal  he started swearing and slammed down his phone. The main point here is the fear/scare tactics to get your info and steal your idenity. They are some what convincing don't accept as fact that they are legitimate hang up and call SS  you will find the real truth. SS will never call you with this nonsense you can beat these crooks if you don;t cooperate with their con.

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Newbie

I am a social worker and have been trying to assist an elderly man with a dispute since 1/28/2020.  “John” has multiple medical diagnoses which he felt could improve if he could lose weight.   He was trying to take charge of his health when he contacted Fastfit and ultimately signed a contract on 12/7/2019.  According to multiple account summaries, “John” is now obligated to pay $6,437.98.  There are several concerns regarding how this arrangement transpired.
He is a 76 year old veteran of the armed forces, has a limited income and resides in public housing.  He struggles with his reading and vision, so I am quite sure that he was unable to thoroughly read the contract.  It was clear to him after attending sessions on 12/17/19 and 12/19/19 that his body was unable to withstand the rigors of the program.  He has diabetic neuropathy and was expected to walk 30 minutes 5 times a week?
A letter from his physician was attached to a letter to the company and collection agency.  His PCP indicates several serious medical conditions in the letter.  The letter also states “Veteran’s health problems may affect his ability to exercise.” 
I find it difficult to understand how the original sales person could ethically proceed with signing this elderly, veteran with multiple medical conditions to such a tremendous financial obligation.  At the very least they had to be aware of his financial situation.
What can I do to help him?  They continue to send him collections letters despite the letter that I sent regarding the above concerns and the Letter from his PCP.

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AARP Expert

@KimB575367 Have you reached out to the Attorney Generals office and filed a complaint? What about legal aid in his community? I would be surprised if they wouldn't be willing to assist him. Since this has a few moving pieces, I think perhaps you also might want to reach out to our Helpline, at 877-908-3360 and one of our fraud specialist can give you some more suggestions and help guide you.

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Newbie

I was told someone used my social security number 

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AARP Expert

@TerryB650576 Have you reviewed your credit report recently to see if any credit was used in your name? Who notified you of this? The unemployment office, bank, friend? My first step would be to review your credit at www.annualcreditreport.com and get a copy. Check it line by line and make sure it's all correct. Then place a fraud alert on your credit report. You can do that by calling any of the 3 credit reporting agencies. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert

 

If you rec'd a notice from the Unemployment Office stating someone filed in your name. You will need to contact the state where it was filed. Here is a list https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/UIIDtheft

 

If you need any other assistance, please call our Helpline at 877-908-3360

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Newbie

I have received legitimate messages from my credit union's fraud detection department regarding questionable usage on my debit card. 

 

I NEVER return the call to the phone number they leave. I always call my credit union directly. This is my "safety check" that the call is legit. 

 

When phone scammers call to talk about my student loan or vehicle warranty, I like to have a little fun with them since I know they're fake. 

 

TIP: If you say anything before they hang up, make sure it's, "Remove me from your calling list."

 

Stay safe!

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AARP Expert

@KeithP307988 Great advice!!! Always call the number back with the number YOU have verified never the number left for you. Because banks and credit unions, including credit cards might call you and let you know about fraudulent charges. Thank you for your tip! These are great!

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Contributor

I got a "group" text from an email address to the built- in messaging on my ATT Samsung phone. My prefix is 709 and the 45 other phones numbers in this text also had 709, so it was obvious some unknown person sent this text to random numbers with that same prefix. The phone company is unable to track this message because it came from an email, not a phone number and I'm unable to block messages that come from emails. There was a link which, of course, I didn't follow, but the other phone numbers in the message responded to the group text for 5 days, not understanding why they were targeted in the message. I finally stopped receiving responses by hand copying each phone number, then going one by one and blocking those numbers. I'm glad I'm tech savvy enough to know not to click the link, but, it's amazing to me that a communication company as large as ATT is unable to prevent this or even to stop it when I was able to send them screenshots.

Have you come across this problem?

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AARP Expert

@AprilM122325 You are awesome. I love your commitment to blocking all those people. This has happened to me as well and those "reply all's" are so frustrating. Somehow your number and the other numbers got on some group text scam list. It's always hard to find out how. We have heard these complaints on the Helpline and they mostly have something to do with pitching an investment or a work at home scam. Great job on your hard work to protect yourself.

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Contributor

Hi, @anofziger17

 

I'm new to the forum and I just need to let some steam out...

 

When the pandemia started my daughter in law suggested I wrote all my information on a notebook with my passwords, life insurance policy number etc.

A couple of weeks ago she asked if I had a will

Today she brings information on wills, states, revocable trusts and how to do a Lady bird deed.

 

Quite frankly, I feel as if the buzzards are flying over me.  

 

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AARP Expert

Do you have an elder law attorney you can speak to that can make sure all your planning is in place? https://www.naela.org/

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Contributor

@anofziger17, I was trying to buy a vehicle online. I should have known better. Scammed out of $1700 in eBay cards. I am only 59 but have frequent seizures and poor short term memory loss. I filed a police report and reported it to both ebay and Facebook Marketplace but neither claimed any responsibility. At a loss.

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AARP Expert

@ElaineP932882 Sadly, the money is gone. This is one of the main reason why these criminals pressure you to send these gift cards to them, they are untraceable and easy to download the money off the cards. It's such a shame so many criminals are doing this. I'm glad you reported it to both entities. Thank you for sharing you story. I'm so sorry this happened.

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Conversationalist

Oh No!! So sorry you are going through this. Hope the police can do something for you.

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Regular Social Butterfly

Ouch!  It is so common today as so many crooks find it is so lucrative.  Have heard of motorhome owners conveying title in exchange for a "cashier check" found to be fraudulent.  Before conveying title on a sale accept cash (verifying bills are NOT counterfeit), telephone the issuing bank (you look up the number and ensure it a valid issue.)

When it comes to crooks selling, be aware of potential liens, not disclosed on the title.  Also, it makes good sense to p today as crooks are everywhere.  It happens both ways, ie buying and selling.  Have seen motorhome owners cheated selling at a very generous price only to find the "cashier's check" is a worthless fraud.  Their intent is to quickly flip it for the $$$.  The ONLY way to protect oneself is have a trusted tech ($100-$150) to go over the major components of the vehicle to ensure you are buying a reliable vehicle not saddled with problems. Check the title and ensure the vehicle is NOT Salvage.  Also, check out CarMax for service history, accident history, etc.   

Increasingly, police stations encourage internet, etc transactions occur at their location as FEW crooks want to transact business in public, especially at a police station. 

While crooks are likely to complain of mistrust, the HONEST buyer, seller likely appreciates your willingness to afford them the SAME protection, assurances you desire.   

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Conversationalist

@anofziger17, when my mom died a few years ago at 98, I was grateful that she had been meticulous about her will and other instructions and records. She even had her funeral pre-planned and pre-paid! What a relief that was. It made getting through the first week after her passing so much easier for the family. But even with her great records, it took nearly a year to do everything that needed to be done. 

 

Getting through that experience taught me what a loving gesture it would be if I did the same and got prepared as possible to make things easier on my kids. I did the will, the trust, the advanced medical directive, all that jazz, made easier by a lawyer who had a whole estate planning package with boilerplate forms. After he plugged in all my info, he provided a binder with everything in it, and I've shown my kids where to find it in my second bedroom office. All that need constant updating are where and how to terminate all my internet accounts!

Could it be that your daughter in law is thinking of how hard your passing, especially if unexpected, would be on your son and other family members, and she's just trying to be protective of her husband?

 

Could you maybe think of this as a gift to them? We all approach death differently but maybe it's worth a thought.

 

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Honored Social Butterfly

 


@DeahC77388 wrote:


Could it be that your daughter in law is thinking of how hard your passing, especially if unexpected, would be on your son and other family members, and she's just trying to be protective of her husband?

I couldn't disagree with you more.

 

It is not the place for the daughter in law to pressure her mother in law to do those things.

 

If the son had the same conversation, it would be a different story.

 

If the son and the daughter in law in tandem had the same conversation, it would be a different story.

 

If the mother had begun the same conversation, it would be a different story.

 

But it being the daughter in law, on her own, bringing up the subject, I AGREE with the original poster, and would feel the daughter in law is the proverbial buzzard flying over me.

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Conversationalist

I guess it depends on the relationship the DIL has with the MIL. I'd agree that the DIL needs to get the son /her hubs involved for smoother communication.

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Community Manager
Community Manager

@anofziger17, I saw that AARP just released some new research on gift cards used as payment in scams.  Why are con artists being asked to be paid in gift cards?

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Contributor

@anofziger has the answer.

I'm generally pretty savvy but got caught by a swindler in a gift card scam. I called Apple with a service-related question, and scammers—by pure coincidence—called about 30 minutes later posing as Apple service people!

If I hadn’t called Apple I’d have known right away they weren’t for real, as (like so many organizations) Apple does not make unsolicited outbound calls. The coincidence caused me to trust them and ignore obvious red flags.

Bottom line: You can never let your guard down, even when you have reason to believe the call is legit. You must always be wary. Any comment or question that is suspicious or out of place is reason to end the proceedings—immediately.

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