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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!
@AARPLynne simply put, they are untraceable and easy to access. Tell me a time when you went into the grocery store or pharmacy and haven't seen the big racks of colorful gift cards? Never right? They are everywhere! Then when you purchase one on behalf of the criminal, all you need to do is read the numbers off the back of the card and instantly they can drain the funds. It happens so fast and to so many people. We get about 550 calls a day on the Helpline and I would guess of those who lost money to a scam 85% involve a gift card in some way or another. So, bottom line, and let's all repeat this pledge.... "I will never, ever, ever buy a gift card for anyone unless it's a gift"
@anofziger17, my father was a recent victim of a gift card scam. Can't legislation be put in place that gift card purchases over a certain dollar amount have a 24 - 48 hour hold on the value? This would give time for family to step in and stop the scam.
@NancyM488170 I'm so sorry to hear about your dad. I've been working at AARP in fraud for 19 years and the stories of loss never get easier. As your fierce defender, AARP is looking at any legislation we can help with to ensure no one loses money again. I do know that right now, some stores have individual policies with gift cards, such as a 24 hold if over $500. The scammers will always find a way around, so education and prevention is key. Please keep sharing these great ideas, we need folks like you to help!
@WarrrenM84404 Oh no, I'm so sorry this happened to you. Please report it. You can always call the AARP Fraud Watch Helpline at 877-908-3360 and talk to one of our fraud specialist. Sadly, the money is gone, but our team can help walk you through your experience and give some guidance for the future.
After working with law enforcment for 40 years I have a couple of things to say. First never answer YES to any of their questions when you answer the phone reply speaking not yes they will at times ask questions but digitally remaster your voice and replace the questions committing to things you never wanted. People give out way to much information on the net and phone the slightest bit of info gets the ball prolling and now your information is compramized this includes zip code. Don't play with them hang up. if they say they are from microsoft tell them you don't have a computer. Think before you answer especially if they are looking for cash and NEVER GIVE OUT SOCIAL SECURITY OR BANKING INFORMATION if something sounds suspiciuos go with your inner feelings just hang up who cares how they feel your looking to protect what you saved all your life for these people are crooks plain and simple and don't deserve anytime if they continue to call back take the phone off the hook and look up call blocking sevices like nomo robo stay safe
oh, i've been targeted. i also fell for one but luckily my bank caught on to it & put a stop to it once i told them what was going on. what i do is to ignore them. i hang up on calls & delete any emails that come in without looking at them. one call suggests my auto warranty ran out. how is that possible since i don't even own a car?
Hi, @anofziger17, my husband had a false unemployment claim filed under his name. What should we do? What are the best protection services (i.e. I have heard about lifelock, experian, etc) to use and how can we be sure when enrolling that this service is legitimate and not a scam website? Thank you in advance.
@KarenP558342 Sorry to hear your husband was a victim of this scam. Many millions of others were as well. It's a huge problem. Your husband will need to file in the state where the UI was claimed, which might not be your home state. Here is the list for all the state contacts https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/UIIDtheft
As for ID theft protection, you will need to do some research on which has what you are looking for, but in this case, it wouldn't have really helped. Most UI cases do not check your credit report therefor if you have your credit report frozen, wouldn't have mattered. However, since you do know that someone has your husband's ID, you might want to put a fraud alert on his credit report to ensure they don't try to open up credit in his name. Here is the information .https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert
@anofziger17, I screen all my calls. So I checked a message from a caller asking if I authorized a charge. The message did not start off from the beginning, so I did not know who was calling, what company, or the person’s name. In addition, they did not say what the item was or any other information. They called from a nearby town, but asked me to call a FL area code number. I did not call them and they never called me back. Sounded like it could be a scam. Was I right?
@cavangal Sounds like a scam to me. There is a popular scam right now where impostors call targets saying there was an unauthorized charge on their Amazon account and need remote access into their computer to adjust the refund. When in the computer they get access to the victim's bank account information. If there is ever a problem with any of your accounts, always go directly to your account within the platform to check it out. Don't allow anyone to remote access into your computer and do not ever buy pre-paid gift cards and send the numbers to the people requesting them. They are just criminals trying to steal your money. Here is one of our recent research pieces on gift cards used in scams. https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2021/aarp-gift-card-survey.html?intcmp=AE-FRDSC-MOR-R2-P...
My elderly father has dementia and has become the target of a very aggressive person who has scammed him out of thousands of dollars. We are working very hard to protect and monitor his bank account, monitor mail, and have taken extraordinary steps with his phone to limit who can call him. But, nothing's failproof and the scammer has figured out a workaround. What advise do you have for our family to protect our father? Thank you.
these scammers are ruthless. first thing i would do is have the post office hold his mail or have it directed to your home if you live apart. i would call the banks possibly change his acct numbers and require two signatures for w/d. change his computer passwords and call the credit bureaus to freeze his accts. and if necessary change his phone number this will slow them down put his valuables in a safe box and get a call blocking service good luck
@d875992j I'm so sorry you are going through this. But your dad is lucky to have your support. When I talk with families going through similar things like you describe, first off, I ask if they have all their legal protections in place. Have your spoken with an elder law attorney to ensure your dad is protected and that someone else is helping him with his affairs, like POA etc. Also, does he have a freeze on his credit. This is a great protection for people who no longer need to access new credit (they still can lift the freeze if they want though) but it ensures that no one can open credit in your dad's name. Here is the link https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs
Does he have a smart phone that he answers? I recommend family inputting the known contacts into the loved ones phone so when a family member or friend calls, your dad can see on the screen that it's them calling. Then go into the settings and have all "unknown contacts" go straight to voicemail. This way, he isn't picking up the phone to potential criminals. Also, is he on the do not call list? this won't stop all calls, but it will help from any potential telemarketers. Some families have also looked into debit cards (that look like credit cards) where you can put a limit on the amount the loved one can withdraw on it without an approval by the family. This will help protect any large withdrawals on his ATM card or bank account. I know you've done a lot of these steps and it seems overwhelming, but you are doing a great thing. Here is one last link to check out for more guidance from the CFPB https://www.consumerfinance.gov/consumer-tools/educator-tools/resources-for-older-adults/protecting-...
@andy79 Have you checked your pop-up blocker settings on your computer? Or it may be affected by mal-ware. I'm not sure what browser you are using, but here are some great tips from Chrome on how to block these, most important to know is not to call the phone number or click on any link that these popups have. Tech support scams are so popular and people are losing thousands to these criminals. https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95472?co=GENIE.Platform%3DAndroid&hl=en
Hello Amy Nofziger! In the recent AARP newsletter, it was suggested that a person never allow anyone control over their computer screen. Obviously, I'm not doing this with people who contact me. But, how about when I contact Geek Squad for remote help--using my membership obtained through AARP? Thanks for your help.
@patriciamgr great question. If you have an established business relationship with them and know they are 100% legit, then yes. It's just the same that sometimes I need to allow my IT team to have access into my computer for certain things. But NEVER someone who calls you unsolicited over the phone or through a pop-up on your computer.
My father used geek squad quite often. Instead of using a saved link he always did a search from search on the pc to find the site or phone number. Not searching from the browser gave him the impression the search stayed on the pc. Rather than also including an internet search. Unlike the browser it did not say this is a trusted site. He got a scammer who did get into the pc. I was able to stop it and thankfully appears the scammer did not have time to do any real damage. I made sure he only used his password manager to connect to established business relationships.
Community: what are some ways you protect yourself from scammers? For me, I don't pick up the phone unless I absolutely know who is calling and I never give out personal information to anyone I don't know. What are some of your prevention strategies?