Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal identification information, like your name, Social Security number or credit card number, without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Here are some ways you can protect yourself:
Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them. Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier. Don’t give out personal information over the phone, through the mail, or on the internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type in a web address you know. Keep your anti-spyware and anti-virus software up-to-date. Visit OnGuardOnline.gov for more information.
Don’t use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother’s maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
If you’re going on vacation or a business trip, call your credit card company(s) and let them know where you’re going and for how long.
Check out these important steps from the Federal Trade Commission: Browse Recovery Steps
The American Bankers Association is offering eight tips to help consumers protect their information and avoid becoming a victim:
Don't share your secrets
Don’t provide your Social Security number or account information to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone. Protect your PINs and passwords and do not share them with anyone. Use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically. Do not reveal sensitive or personal information on social networking sites.
Shred sensitive papers
Shred receipts, banks statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
Keep an eye out for missing mail
Fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements and other mail containing your financial information. Consider enrolling in online banking to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen. Also, don’t mail bills from your own mailbox with the flag up.
Use online banking to protect yourself
Monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. Sign up for text or email alerts from your bank for certain types of transactions, such as online purchases or transactions of more than $500.
Monitor your credit report
Order a free copy of your credit report every four months from one of the three credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com.
Protect your computer
Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is active and up to date. When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active. Also look for an “s” after the “http” to be sure the website is secure.
Protect your mobile device
Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen. Before you donate, sell or trade your mobile device, be sure to wipe it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen. Use caution when downloading apps, as they may contain malware and avoid opening links and attachments – especially for senders you don’t know.
Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately
School supplies have hit the store shelves, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late for one last summer trip. But beware, because the pool of last-minute travel deals is filled with sharks.
Criminal scammers create fake travel sites that look just like the real thing and offer prices too good to pass up. They often copy legitimate rental listings, making it especially hard to tell the real from the fake. And they know how to get their fake websites to show up prominently in internet searches. Here are three tips to make sure that your last trip of the summer doesn’t go up in smoke.
First, be careful where you shop. If you aren’t using a trusted travel website, do the research to ensure that the company is reputable. Second, be skeptical of any pitch that offers steep discounts on travel and accommodations. And third, don’t trust any vacation seller who asks you to pay outside of the online travel platform or app.
Studies have shown that if you are aware of a specific scam, you are 80% less likely to engage with it, and if you do engage, you’re 40% less likely to lose money or sensitive information. So, when it comes to scams and fraud, knowledge is indeed power. But how can we spread that knowledge around, so more people are empowered to protect themselves?
One great way to share what you know is through the AARP Scam-Tracking Map (www.aarp.org/scammap). The map shows scams that people experience every day, and it also includes law enforcement warnings. You can submit scams you’ve encountered and explore what’s being reported in your geography.We’re all in this together – let’s share what we know so the next target doesn’t become the next victim.
Congress is talking about changes to Medicare again and scammers are listening. Whenever large government programs like Medicare are in the news, criminals will be on the phones hoping to cash in on the surround sound..
One recurring scam involves a Medicare impersonator calling to say that the agency is moving to plastic cards and they just need to verify your Medicare number to issue the new card. This is how criminals collect thousands of Medicare numbers that are ultimately used to fraudulently bill Medicare or to sell to others who will use the numbers for medical procedures.
Know that Medicare will not call you out of the blue. If you believe you may have fallen victim to a Medicare scam, report it to Medicare at 800-633-4227.
When it comes to combatting scams, we all have the same superpower. The single most effective way to avoid scam calls is to let your answering machine or voicemail screen calls for you. It’s a power we all have, but unfortunately, it’s not a power we all use.
Federal Trade Commission data from last year show that the telephone was the source for more than a third of reported scams. Reported losses were nearly $700 million, with a median loss of $1,200. That’s a lot of phone fraud. Thanks to criminals, we can’t rely on Caller ID, so our best defense is letting calls go to the machine. This gives you the opportunity to listen to messages with intent, and with time to consider its validity.
So don’t forget that YOU have a superpower, one that can protect you from the IRS scam, or the Medicare scam, or the grandparent scam, or dozens of other impostor scams – by letting them go to voicemail.
Summer is officially here which means door-to-door sales crews are too. But buyer beware, what they're selling isn't always legit.
Be cautious anytime a stranger comes knocking, especially if the visitor is trying to sell you goods or services. Be wary of contractors who say they stopped by because they just happened to be in the neighborhood. Be on guard for high pressure tactics designed to pressure you to make a quick decision or requests for payment upfront. Your best bet is to proactively seek out the services you need. Remember, it's always okay to explain you don't do business at your front door (or to not answer when strangers knock)
One question that everyone wants to know when it comes to scams and fraud is where is the greatest risk? When people are bombarded by criminals on email, over the phone, text and online it’s hard to know where to focus. And while it’s important to take every scam attempt seriously, consumers should realize that they are particularly susceptible on social media.
According to the Federal Trade Commission 25% of successful scams last year originated on a social media platform. In 2017 consumers lost $42 million to social media scams. Last year that total was $770 million – an 18-fold increase. Here are three warning signs of social media scams.
One out of every three American veterans has had a scammer try and steal their benefits. This statistic highlights how veterans, active-duty service members and their families are nearly 40% more likely to lose money to scams and fraud. To help combat this AARP recently launched an online resource center focused on veterans-related scams.
Two common schemes to steal from veterans are pension poaching and medical device scams. Shady investment advisors often target veterans with promises to "maximize" their pension benefit or offer to buy out their benefits. These offers often require personal information or up-front payments and rarely deliver on what is promised. Similar to the pension scams, health care offers of low-cost or free medical devices to disabled vets often require sharing their personal VA information only to find out that the device never arrives.
To find out more about scams targeting veterans and how to protect yourself from them visit aarp.org/VetsFraudCenter.
Renting a home or apartment is a big expense but it could be an even bigger one if the rental is a scam. Criminals copy legitimate listings and look for easy cash by collecting the first month's rent, deposit, and application fees and then bolt before handing over the keys. Numerous versions of rental frauds abound - some are bait-and-switch while others will attempt to rent out properties that are already leased or otherwise unavailable.
These fake rental schemes happen every year and would-be renters are losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars. When renting a place, watch out for scammers who ask you to sign before seeing anything or request payment via wire transfer, peer to peer apps or cash. Do your research on the property and owner and read agreements carefully
Medicare fraud continues to ravage the program to the tune of billions of dollars a year. And while the cost to the program increases costs for beneficiaries in the form of higher premiums, much more is at stake. Your healthcare history can be affected if someone steals your number and uses it to get treatment that ends up in your file. Also, receiving “Medicare-covered” equipment or tests unknowingly from a scammer can make you ineligible for those services down the road.
The two most important things you can do to help fight Medicare fraud is to never give your Medicare number out to anyone but your trusted health care providers and always review your Medicare statement carefully and report any unauthorized charges.
If you lost money to a scam that involved wiring money through Western Union between Jan. 1, 2004, and Jan. 19, 2017, you have until July 1 to file a claim for a refund under a settlement between the payment service and the federal government.
During roughly that time period, wire transfers were the preferred form of payment for criminal scammers and millions of people lost money through coerced transactions. Western Union admitted to lapsed oversight and agreed to forfeit $586 million to provide refunds to consumers who were deceived into using the service to send money to scammers.
If you believe you are eligible but have not been contacted by the administrator, call 855-786-1048 to request a form, or visit www.westernunionremissionphase2.com. Only victims who lost money through a Western Union wire transfer between Jan. 1, 2004, and Jan. 19, 2017 are eligible for relief.
When we think about scammers, we often think of “stranger danger” stemming from overseas criminal enterprises bombarding our phones and emails with fraudulent messages. The sad reality for older adults is that most financial abuse they suffer is perpetrated by someone they know.
This Wednesday, June 15, is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and it’s the perfect time to remember that older adults are vulnerable to financial abuse by loved ones as well as strangers. Some warning signs include: a caregiver or family member who suddenly asks for access to your loved one’s accounts or possessions, changes in their financial practices such as new credit cards or unopened bank statements, or a financial agent who isn’t following your loved one’s wishes.
Most importantly, if you suspect abuse of any type, report it to local law enforcement right away.
School is out for the year, but for millions the bills keep on coming. More than 43 million Americans are paying off student loans and every one of them is eager to do so as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this eagerness creates an opportunity for scammers.
These scams typically start with a "debt relief expert" reaching out with an unsolicited offer to help navigate through state and federal programs to help you reduce or restructure your debt. This “offer” may include instant, easy-to-access loan forgiveness options, sometimes connected to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then comes the red flag. These fraudulent offers all ask for payment or personal information such as a Social Security number or your student aid login information.
If you are a student borrower, there are two important things to know. First there's nothing that these companies can research for you that you can't legitimately find for yourself for free. Second, it is illegal for debt relief companies to collect payment from you before they get results, so upfront fees are a surefire sign of a scam.
For free information on getting help with federal student loans visit StudentAid.gov.
For the second year in a row, sticker shock – especially with rental cars – is greeting summer travelers. Reduction in fleet sizes during the pandemic and supply chain issues have once again created a situation where rental care demand is high, supply is tight, and prices are high.
Criminals are paying attention and posting fake rental car deals at rock bottom prices online. While everyone loves a good deal, doing business with an entity you aren’t familiar with could be risky. Whatever your travel needs, stick to reputable websites with proven track records. Note – some scammers create fake websites that look like the real sites of well-known rental car companies, so make sure to look closely at the web address. If you do find a deal with an unfamiliar provider, do your research: look up the company name with “scam” or “complaint” and see what appears, and check out reviews.
Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.
Report scams to local law enforcement. Visit the AARP Fraud Website for more information on fraud prevention.
The Federal Trade Commission and American Bankers Association have posted a helpful infographic on Fake Check Scams.