Have you or someone you know been a victim of fraud? Want to know how best to spot a scam online? Unfortunately, fraudulent activity happens every day to people like you, but AARP is here to help.
AARP recently offered online advice from Amy Nofziger, who manages the AARP Fraud Helpline and is AARP’s expert on fraud and scams, on how to protect yourself and your family members from scam artists. A stream of questions poured in from people sharing their experiences and asking about various cons. It’s clear that these scams are among the most pernicious.
1. “I received a call from 360-203-0375 claiming to be from the IRS and telling me I owed back taxes. It was a recorded message. Knowing I did not owe back taxes, I hung up!!!”
Nofziger replied: “That’s the perfect response! HANG UP! Great job staying safe." If the phone rings and you pick up and no one responds, "sometimes this can be a phone call coming from a call center that uses technology called predictive dialing. It autodials hundreds of people at the same time, and whoever picks the phone up first gets the operator and all the other calls drop off. Could be confirmation of a real number … but this is possible as well. My best advice, unless people know who is calling, don’t pick up the phone. I have an app on my phone that warns me when a call comes in, to the legitimacy of the call. These calls all alert me with a ‘scam or fraud’ warning, so I didn’t answer. They did leave a robocall message threatening my arrest. The IRS does not operate this way. There are many apps in the App Store. Some are free and some cost. A few of the products are Hiya, Truecaller, PrivacyStar and many others. Find the one that looks best for you by reading through the reviews and knowing which features you want. Also, on your landline, there is a service called Nomorobo that operates similar blocking services on traditional landlines."
2. "A computer company called to say I had a virus on my computer."
Nofziger replied: "Computer companies don't proactively reach out to consumers to let them know about a potential virus on consumers' computers. If anyone calls asking to remote access into your computer, hang up. If you receive a pop-up on your screen telling you that there is a virus and you need to call a phone number, click out of the box. Or you may even have to 'hard shutdown' your system to get it to go away. But don't call the number or click on any links. Never give personal or financial information to anyone who calls you, nor pay for any services like this, in prepaid gift cards."
3. "I constantly receive calls claiming to be a clearinghouse stating I have won millions of dollars and I have only a few hours to go to a Western Union to pay my fees and taxes, which always mounts to over $1,000 to have my prize delivered. When I ask how come that isn't taken out of the prize money, they always have a reason. I would then ask for a number to verify. They give an 800 number, but I never call. I can tell it is a scam because I should not have to pay money up front for a winning. Is this correct?"
Nofziger replied: "Yes, those are 100 percent scams. They will come up with any excuse to get you to pay them. I've worked with victims who have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in these scams. Next time they call, if you know it's them, do not answer your phone. If you pick up and they try to talk, tell them you know it's a scam and hang up the phone. Do not engage, and make sure to not give them any personal or financial information."
To learn more about how AARP is helping people like you avoid scams and fraud, go to the AARP Fraud Watch Network.