Scammers steal billions of dollars from unsuspecting consumers every year. The impact on victims and their families can be financially and emotionally devastating, especially for older Americans.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network is working to empower consumers to spot and avoid scams, and to provide support and guidance to victims and their families when fraud happens. Associate State Director for Communications Beth Velasquez discussed what we can do to protect ourselves.
Some of the things to look out for:
- Gift cards: One common trick is for thieves to go to stores and surreptitiously scratch off the film strip on the backs of gift cards to get the personal identification numbers (PINs), which they cover back up with easy-to-obtain replacement stickers. The card numbers and PINs are entered into a computer program that repeatedly checks the retailer’s website. When someone buys and loads a compromised card, the scammer is notified and can spend or transfer the money on the card, or cash it in, before the buyer or gift recipient has a chance to use it.
- The Grandparent Scams: Grandparent scams typically work something like this: The victim gets a call from someone posing as his or her grandchild. This person explains, in a frantic-sounding voice, that he or she is in trouble: There’s been an accident, or an arrest, or a robbery. To up the drama and urgency, the caller might claim to be stuck in a foreign country; to make the impersonation more convincing, he or she will throw in a few family particulars, gleaned from the actual grandchild’s social media activity. The impostor offers just enough detail about where and how the emergency happened to make it seem plausible and perhaps turns the phone over to another scammer who pretends to be a doctor, police officer or lawyer and backs up the story. The “grandchild” implores the target to wire money immediately, adding an anxious plea: “Don’t tell Mom and Dad!”