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How AARP's Fraud Watch Network Helpline Is Fighting for You

Volunteers are on duty every day to provide emotional support and practical advice to scam victims


spinner image AARP Fraud Watch Volunteer LeDene Lewis poses for a portrait at Civic Park Senior Center in Livonia, Mich. on April 6, 2023.
LeDene Lewis is a Helpline volunteer who provides comfort to callers.
Photo by: NIC ANTAYA

The AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline is one of the largest operations of its kind in America, receiving 400 calls each day from scam victims or their loved ones to get free help and counseling. That would not be possible without a dedicated team of more than 100 volunteers who work the telephones, listen to people in distress and help them report crimes and locate financial or psychological counseling.

No particular background is necessary to become a volunteer, but many who step forward have seen firsthand the impact of fraud on so many Americans. Volunteers spend about 15 hours in training. “The work can be emotionally draining,” says one longtime volunteer. “But the gratitude that we get back is really what drives us. To hear at the end of the call, ‘I’m so glad I called.’ ”

We’d like you to meet some volunteers.

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LeDene Lewis, 72

Retired compliance officer in Livonia, Michigan 

"I wanted to volunteer where I could make a difference.," says Lewis

Lewis gets so mad at the crooks, “I want to get on a galloping horse and go find those people and rid the world of them,” she says. “But I can’t. What I can do is comfort [the victims] and empathize with them.”

She adds that "it's like being the scammer in reverse, because the scammer will listen to their heart to learn how to get at them, and I listen to their heart to learn how to help them."

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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.

Margaret Locke, 61

Denver lawyer

spinner image Margaret Locke poses for a photograph in the Denver offices of the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline on April 06, 2023. Locke has volunteered for more than five years.
Photo by: THEO STROOMER

“Oftentimes the first call a victim is making is to AARP,” says Locke, who’s been volunteering for the helpline for almost five years. “They haven’t told anyone. They haven’t told a spouse. They haven’t told their kids. They are alone and scared. And so that’s when they reach out to us.”​

Giancarlo Berrocal, 35

Bank risk manager and certified fraud ­examiner in Boca Raton, Florida

spinner image AARP Fraud Volunteer Giancarlo Berrocal poses for a portrait in his home in Boca Raton, Florida on April 6, 2023.
Photo by: Bryan Cereijo

Berrocal is bilingual and often takes calls from ­Spanish-speaking victims, many of whom have reported losing money in crypto­currency investment scams. “Crypto is just huge across the board in terms of being a way to scam people,” he says. So are tech support scams, he adds, recalling a woman he spoke with who had lost more than $1 million — "all her savings and 401k retirement money" to one such scammer.

Alfred and Natalie Mason, 83 and 82

Retirees in Darrow, Louisiana

spinner image Alfred and Natalie Mason
Courtesy ALFRED MASON

The couple started out several years ago as volunteers in AARP’s Louisiana State Office, where their duties included teaching people about fraud at information sessions around town. Working on the Helpline was a natural next step for the pair, who’ve been married for 65 years. They typically each volunteer for about two hours a week, with one taking notes as the other speaks with callers.

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Natalie says the most heartbreaking stories come from victims of romance scams. She recalls one woman who had fallen in love and given everything she owned to an online impostor: “She had sold her home, sold her car, all of her income was gone and she did not know where she was going to sleep that night.” She assisted the caller with reporting the crime and gave her something that can be even more important: empathy.

In some cases, says Alfred, “you’re just the person that they cry to, and the person they can vent to as well.”

David Brown, 60

spinner image David Brown, of AARP’s volunteer Fraud Watch team, photographed at home in Sherman Oaks, California April 6, 2023.
Photo by: LAUREN JUSTICE

Staff attorney with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Los Angeles

Brown has seen multimillion-dollar losses from ­securities fraud throughout his career but has found himself particularly moved by helpline victims’ reports of puppy scams— in which criminals advertise pups for sale, then disappear once they have your money. “How could scammers prey upon and victimize people when all they want to do is love a furry, four-legged creature?”

If you are interested in volunteering, call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at (877) 908-3360 or email AARPFraudWatchHelpline@aarp.org for more information.

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