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An Echo Press Editorial: Be a fraud fighter, report scams

By the Echo Press Editorial Board

EP Echo Press Editorial
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There are so many scams and schemes out there it’s difficult to keep up with them all.

But taking the time to be more careful with your money and banking information is well worth the effort. It’s also vital to report if you’ve been targeted. Alerting authorities can prevent others from being hoodwinked. As AARP noted in a recent news release, “Be a fraud fighter! If you spot a scam, you can stop a scam.”

Last week, the Echo Press received information from AARP Fraud Watch Network about the following scams:

Gift cards. There are two types of scams. 1. A criminal convinces a consumer to pay a fake financial obligation by purchasing gift cards and sharing the numbers off the back of the cards. 2. Scammers have already accessed the cards while on the store racks, leading a consumer to purchase or receive a card with zero funds.

Shockingly, the research finds that 73 million Americans – about one-third of U.S. adults – have experienced one of these forms of gift card fraud, according to the AARP.

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According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumer reported scams led to losses of $233 million in 2021 to scams involving gift cards as the form of payment. Remember, gift cards are for gifts – not payment. If anyone you don’t know asks you to pay them with a prepaid card, it is a scam.

ID fraud. Last year, 42 million consumers suffered a staggering $52 billion in losses from identity fraud, according to AARP. Much of this activity is happening via “traditional ID fraud” – the kind that happens in a way the consumer may never know, like a data breach. Another form of identity fraud happens as part of a scam (when a criminal directly deceives someone into giving sensitive information)

AARP reports a glimmer of good news about ID scams: Victims and losses dropped significantly from last year, with 12 million fewer victims (at 27 million total) and $15 billion less in losses (for a total of $28 billion). “While the numbers are still outrageous, it suggests that consumers have adopted stronger protections that have put a big dent in the success of identity fraud scams,” AARP noted.

To fight ID fraud, the best offense is a good defense: Avoid clicking on links in text messages or emails, use unique passwords for each website you do business with; enable two-factor authentication, which requires a password and a separate code to access the website; and avoid scanning unknown QR codes – it may take you to a malware-infected web addresses.

When the caregiver is a crook. There’s nothing more important than knowing that your loved one is being properly cared for. Unfortunately, some of those tasked with providing this care take advantage of the opportunity to line their own pockets, the AARP said.

Here are three things you can do to safeguard your loved one from financial exploitation: 1. Regularly check in with both the caregiver and the care recipient to ensure the quality of care. 2. Use technology to be present even when you physically can’t be. 3. Keep an inventory of valuables and have a system for monitoring financial transactions.

If there is one thing everyone should understand, The AARP noted, it’s that “scammers” are career criminals skilled at the art of manipulation and no one is immune. These crooks target people of any age; in fact, 41% of those who reported a fraud loss to the Federal Trade Commission last year were under the age of 30.

So, what can a person do if they find out they’ve been victimized?

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One resource is the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline. Every weekday, trained AARP volunteer fraud fighters are helping victims understand what happened, report the crime and start to put their lives back together. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a scam or fraud, call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 1-877-908-3360 for support.

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By the Echo Press Editorial Board
By the Echo Press Editorial Board