The AARP Fraud Watch Network says scammers are using AARP's name to falsely notify older people by email or phone that they've won a big sweepstakes prize.
“AARP does not participate in sweepstakes or lotteries like this,” says AARP Foundation fraud expert Amy Nofziger. “They're doing this under the AARP brand to offer more credibility to the older adult.”
According to the FTC, lottery and sweepstakes scams are among the most common types of fraud. Typically, individuals are asked to turn over a specific lump sum or financial information such as banking details in order to receive their winnings.
According to Nofziger, that request for money or information is a red flag. “You never have to prepay for any lottery or sweepstakes,” she says, which is true of legitimate winnings from groups such as Publishers Clearing House.
Nofziger says it's best to avoid contact with anyone claiming that you’ve won money from AARP. “Do not call the phone number, do not have any communications with these people,” Nofziger says. “This is 100 percent a scam.”
In general, Nofziger says, it’s important to ask yourself certain questions if you receive offers of money or other prizes. For instance: Are you being asked to provide advance payment or banking details? Did you enter the sweepstakes or contest in the first place?
For guidance or to report a suspected scam, call the AARP Fraud Watch Helpline (877-908-3360).
You can also help by spreading the word to others. “We recommend that people tell their friends and family about it,” says Nofziger. “If you tell five people who tell five people, that's how we're going to get the message out.”