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6 Scams to Dodge in 2020

Phony census questionnaires, fake Medicare testing and other frauds ripping-off consumers

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Jon Elswick/Getty

These are America's hottest rip-offs right now, according to the experts at AARP's Fraud Watch Network. Don't get burned.

1. Job Scams

Crooks find potential victims using online search tools to look for résumés of job seekers.

Pitch: You're contacted about what sounds like the job of a lifetime and even given a check to cover expenses — just wire money back or send gift cards to cover fees. Only later do you figure out the check is fake.

Method: Usually via email or a professional networking site.

Prevention: Real jobs don't come at a cost (actual recruiters are paid by the business).

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2. Census Scams

Impostors could pretend to be census takers.

Pitch: You could be asked for your Social Security number or credit card information.

Method: A fake census worker shows up at your door. Or you're contacted by phone, mail or email.

Prevention: The Census Bureau will never ask for your Social Security number, solicit donations or threaten you with arrest if you don't cooperate. Census takers carry government IDs. For more information, visit

3. Election Scams

Scammers send out fake ads as political action committees or pose as pollsters or campaign volunteers.

Pitch: They pretend to be legitimate fundraisers to trick you into giving them your credit card number or sending a “donation” by gift card or wire transfer.

Method: Phone, email, social media posts — the same ways that candidates contact you.

Prevention: Don't donate to a candidate from an unsolicited pitch. Reach out directly to those you support.

4. Medicare Fraud

A crook will tell you that you can get a free DNA swab test for cancer, or medical devices or services.

Pitch: To get the free health care, you just need to provide your Medicare number.

Method: This offer usually comes via phone or email. Vans drive through neighborhoods, with people knocking on doors offering tests in return for Medicare numbers.

Prevention: Never give your Medicare number to anyone but a trusted medical professional.

5. Phishing Scams

Scammers pretend to be Amazon representatives, taking advantage of the fact that the company sent more than 3.5 billion packages last year.

Pitch: You'll be told a package can't be delivered until you “confirm” your credit card number.

Method: Crooks send out millions of random emails. Within the email is a link that, if opened, places malware on your computer to harvest data.

Prevention: Don't give information via a link. Go to Amazon's website directly.

6. COVID-19 Scams

You get an email offering a coronavirus vaccine or access to critical medical equipment.

Pitch: Anxiety's high; you are urged to protect yourself.

Method: Some emails ask for credit card information, then bill you for products that never arrive. Others include a link that will install malware to steal your passwords.

Prevention: Visit government health agency websites for updates. Be wary of emails during a crisis. There is no COVID-19 vaccine.

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Have you seen this scam?

  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.