AARP Scam Alert - January

  1. Three Words for the New Year

    It’s New Year’s Resolution time. Time to make a commitment to be fraud aware in 2024. For the next 52 weeks, like clockwork, scammers will be on the prowl looking to steal our money or sensitive information. Instead of making one pledge this New Year make a resolution to remember these three words: stop, think and verify.

    Criminal scammers need one thing to be successful. They need to get their victims into a heightened emotional where they don’t take the steps they normally do before making a decision – many call this being in “the ether.” Once someone is either so scared or excited and motivated to take action quickly they can miss some of the typical warning signs of a scam.

    This is where the three words can help. Before making any sudden decision involving money try and stop by disengaging from the call, text or email. Once you have pressed pause think about how this situation or opportunity got put in front of you. Is it logical, does it make sense. And if you think it might be legitimate then verify it on your own by contacting the source through other means, not the phone number or link that was sent to you.

    These three simple words could save you and your family a lot of money and emotional trauma in 2024.
  2. Credit Repair Scams

    If you’re like a lot of people, you spent a lot this holiday season and you might be in the mood to tackle your debt in the New Year. Getting yourself out of debt is hard work. It takes time and discipline. Be wary of offers of guaranteed quick fixes.

    Fraud criminals use all sorts of pitches to claim to help you become debt-free. These offers usually involve up-front fees, bad advice like stopping communication with your creditors and vague details on what services they actually provide. If you need help getting out of debt, turn to an organization like the nonprofit National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
  3. Know Your Seller When Shopping Online

    One key to shopping online is reading the fine print, including who you’re actually buying from. While we often think of giant online retailers like Amazon, Walmart and Target as a store they can be more like a mall or flea market where you are buying products from a variety of sellers. However, some of those sellers are more reputable than others.

    Criminals use these websites to resell stolen products or items that either don’t work or contain dangerous chemicals. One easy way to protect yourself is to make sure you are buying directly from the retailer that runs the website. You can usually find the seller’s name on the product page near the button for buying the item. Shipping times and return policies are another sign of who you are buying from as products from the branded retailer will often ship faster and have a clear return policy.

    As of the third quarter of 2023, online shopping scams were the second highest category of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission, and 51% of those reporting lost a combined $308 million. The actual losses are likely far higher since fraud is significantly under-reported. 
  4. Utility Bill Scams

    Winter is upon us and with temperatures plummeting in many areas, keeping the heat on is critical — a fact that fraud criminals try to take advantage of. Each winter, utility scams spike as scammers claiming to be from the utility company say you haven’t been paying your bill and they threaten to cut off service if you don’t make an immediate payment. The goal of these crooks is to create a sense of panic – when we react first with emotion, it’s hard to access logical thinking, and the criminals are adept with using this tactic. Their hope is that we stay in that state of panic long enough to complete a payment. 

    If you get a surprise call from the “utility company” threatening to shut off your service, hang up the phone. Contact your provider using the customer service number on a recent bill (or log into their website or app if that’s an option). Chances are high you will find out your payments are up to date. 
  5. When That Hot Ticket is a Fake

    Getting tickets to must-see concerts is becoming harder than ever. From presale signup to waiting hours online and still missing out on the tickets you want, criminals have a solution – and it’s costing consumers a lot of money in fraudulent ticket purchases. With most concert venues switching to digital tickets only, it is easier than ever to produce counterfeit tickets. And with many of the top shows selling out instantly the market for resale tickets is larger than ever. Here are three tips to avoid buying a worthless ticket. 

    First, stick to known ticket sales sites or visit the National Association of Ticket Brokers ( to ensure that you are dealing with a verified reseller. Always type the web address of the site you want to visit into your browser vs. clicking a link that could take you to a copycat site.

    Second, beware of offers on social media and online marketplaces where this scam flourishes.

    Third, never pay with a peer-to-peer payment app unless you are getting tickets from someone you know. You don’t have the same consumer protections with these methods that you have with a credit card.