In this episode of The Perfect Scam, Frank discusses his favorite scams. Then, Will speaks with AARP’s Fraud Watch Network Experts Kristin Keckeisen and Amy Nofziger to learn more about being on the front lines of helping victims who’ve been scammed.
TIPS: If you think you’ve been a victim of a scam or would like to report fraud call The Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. Anyone can become the victim of a scam, it’s important to be vigilant and know your vulnerabilities. For instance, if you are looking for a job you are more vulnerable to a work-at-home scam.
[00:00:01] HOST: Coming
up on this episode of AARP's Perfect Scam.
[00:00:03] The scammers
are always thinking of stuff, and they're very creative and they're very
[00:00:09] Yeah, they
walked away with a quarter of a million dollars.
[00:00:12] There are a
lot of scammers out there and they all have one gal, to separate you from your
[00:00:19] HOST: What
would you do if you were scammed? Who would you turn to? Who would you call? On
today's episode, we're going to introduce you to some of the AARP's top fraud
experts. These are people who are working with scam victims and potential
victims every day across the country. These are, in fact, the people who want
you to call when you've been scammed. And they're helping all of us do a better
job protecting ourselves. For The Perfect Scam, I'm Will Johnson, I am joined
by the AARP Fraud Watch Network Ambassador, Frank Abagnale. Frank, thanks for
Abagnale: Thank you, Will.
[00:00:47] HOST: Frank
is, as you hopefully know, one of, I can say this, one of the most famous
impersonators of all time perhaps.
Abagnale: Whatever you like.
[00:00:56] HOST: Con
man, maybe. Has there ever been a Frank Abagnale impersonator that you're aware
Abagnale: Yeah, I think there's some people that have tried to mimic some of
the things I've done. I don't know if they've been very successful at it, but occasionally
I'll see in the paper where they'll say similar to Frank Abagnale. I do get a
kick, I do get amused at whenever something happens like some jewel heist or
some art heist, or something like that, they always refer back, like Frank
Abagnale. Well, I never, I don't know anything about art. Or heist some
jewelry, but they use me a lot as a reference to every kind of scam or robbery
[00:01:30] HOST: Giving
you far more much more credit than you deserve. I mean your thing was checks.
[00:01:33] Frank Abagnale:
That's right. Absolutely.
Alright, so today, we are going to talk to members of the AARP Fraud Watch
Network Team and about some of the amazing things they're doing to help people
report scams, find out about scams, get information on scams. And we'll get to
that. But first of all, we wanted to have a little fun today. We're going to
talk about some of the scams that you might not have heard of out there. And
Frank, you were telling me about one in particular, the shopping scam, that's
probably, it's more of a niche scam, I guess you could say that.
Abagnale: It's a niche scam, but it's been around quite a while and it's still
very popular today. It does require a lot of work, time, and money, but in the
end the payoff is real big. So, one I'm very familiar with was a group of
people that basically ran ads in out in places like Scottsdale, Arizona, in
very high wealth areas, and simply said that they were a company that
represented very wealthy people on the East Coast who were looking for
professional shoppers to buy things that they're too busy to shop. They're
running a company or a corporation and Christmas coming, and they need someone
to go out and has good taste, they can buy things that they want to get for their
family and friends and associates. And that they will be holding interviews for
those shoppers at the Ritz Carlton in Phoenix, Arizona during these two days.
[00:02:54] HOST: And
this is something, a professional shopper is a career, is a job, a hobby, but
something that exists.
[00:03:01] HOST: In
Abagnale: Exactly. So people go and they get interviewed by these people, and
they're looking for the things like, yes, my husband's a surgeon here in
Phoenix, and I live in the Biltmore Estates which is a very wealthy
neighborhood, and I'm kind of a housewife and my kids are grown. I'm looking
for things to do, but I know good quality goods.
[00:03:21] HOST: So
they're looking for people with a lot of money.
Abagnale: A lot of money.
[00:03:24] HOST: Yeah.
Abagnale: So then they finally write you a letter and say they selected you and
that they have a client that would like for you to be their personal shopper,
and that what we, how we work this is we will send you a cashier's check for
[00:03:40] HOST: And
just so we are clear, what is a cashier's check?
Abagnale: Cashier's check, like an official bank check where the money's
already been put aside, and that we'll send you the cashier's check and you can
deposit it in your account, then we will then forward you, in a short period of
time a list of things that they would like to purchase, and then you can go out
and purchase, and of course, they get paid a few or a commission for doing
[00:04:00] HOST: To do
the shopping itself, so you get the check and then you get paid up front for
the, for what you're doing or...
Abagnale: Well you don't, you get paid supposedly a commission or so on. So
then what happens is you're followed up very quickly with an email or a phone
call saying that the person has changed their mind after you deposited the
check, and that they've decided to not do that and we ask that you refund the
money immediately and you can either wire us the money to this account,
however, do take out $2500 for your services and the time you took and devoted
to this project.
[00:04:34] HOST: So
you've gotten a check for say $10,000 to go shopping and now you're told, you
deposited that into your account. You are told to send that money back but take
out $2500 and so you send back 7500?
Abagnale: Right, and how that words and to keep in mind the ones I've seen are
all around $50,000 or more, because people they're buying for buy very
expensive jewelry and gifts, but when you deposited the check, because that
woman married to the surgeon, she and her husband are well established at that
bank. They're good customers, have a great deal of money at that bank, so that
means they get immediate credit, okay. So then what happens during that period
of time we take that check to clear, they've come back and said return the
money, so that person then goes into the bank and says I need to wire $48,000
to this bank account. They wire the money only later to find out that the check
is no good. Now, by federal law, the endor--, the last endorser of the check is
who's liable for that loss. So that's her liability. So she's lost the money
because she endorsed the check and deposited it in her account. The bank really
doesn't care that she was scammed or how she was scammed or what happened. The
fact is, the law is very explicit. The last endorser holds the liability for
the check that was deposited.
Because that money, that check wasn't, was a fraud.
Abagnale: The checks turned out to be fraudulent, she paid out the, she paid
out the $48,000 she wired back, so she's now out...
[00:06:05] HOST: She
sent that money back.
Abagnale: Right, so she's out all her money because...
[00:06:08] HOST: It's a
timing scam, clearly.
[00:06:10] HOST: They've
got to get this money back before anybody determines it. How long is that
Abagnale: And she never even got the 2500 because that was supposedly money
from a legitimate deposit which turned out to be not so...
[00:06:20] HOST: Wow,
that's a complicated scam.
Abagnale: Yeah, and it can take you know still 3 to 5 days to clear a check,
especially across country, and that's if they haven't manipulated the routing
numbers and things on the check.
[00:06:32] HOST: So,
these scammers have gone to, and this is really happening? This sounds like a
movie in and of itself.
Abagnale: Yes. So, you know, I mean these things happen all the time. Again,
you don't hear a lot about it, because who wants to jump out there and say I
was defrauded by this scam. So, a lot of times some people do report it and we
hear about it. The one that I was reciting to you was publicly known. It was in
the paper. It was in all of that of what actually happened. But that's how elaborate
they can get, but when people think about well, you know, who goes through all
that? Well, yeah. That was one lady. So say there were four or five shoppers
that they hired and did that with, you know they walked away with a quarter of
a million dollars, so who cares about what it took to run an ad in the paper
and what it took to rent a small little meeting room in a hotel for a couple of
days? Five grand?
[00:07:20] HOST: And
that would presumably be a small team of people or one or two people? More?
Abagnale: It might be one or two people, three people, yeah, so that's not a
big, it's not, it's a lot of money for a little bit of work.
[00:07:29] HOST: Yeah.
Alright. So from sort of a very involved scam to a very low tech scam, the
mustard scam. This is real, too. Tell us about this.
Abagnale: You know the mustard scam is a very well-known scam, and actually the
reason it's called the mustard scam, it could be anything. It could be other
things, but they usually will take a packet of mustard, put a little slice in
it, and then will walk up to someone who has a computer bag or a briefcase,
right, sitting by them, could be in the airport, could be outside, and they
will kind of walk up and tap you on the shoulder, but while they're tapping
you, they're putting the mustard on your coat, and then they simply say,
"Sir, I didn't know if you realized it, but you have some mustard or some
stain on your coat." "What?" And then they go to take their coat
off and all, while they're all occupied with cleaning their coat, the
accomplice walks away with their bag, and when I did some shows like Crime
Watch Tonight and did some video training tapes, we actually did it. It was an
actor, so we did it to people, and every time it worked. You know, of course,
we immediately brought back their stuff, but we explained to them how easy it
[00:08:33] HOST: You
walked up to some stranger with a bag and would...
Abagnale: Right, and we would do that, and then we'd come back, of course we'd
have to get their consent to show it on TV or consent to do it, and most people
always did give their consent, but we explained to them, we're trying to
educate people about the scam.
[00:08:46] HOST: But on
a very basic level, that's a little bit of a subterfuge or almost like
glorified pickpocketing, but it's smoke and mirrors. It's what you do in any
scam. You're kind of making people think about the opposite of what you're
Abagnale: Right, and let talk about the pickpocket scam, because...
[00:09:02] HOST: Yes,
Abagnale: The pickpocket scam has gotten a lot more sophisticated than the old
pickpocket guy back in the '40s and '50s. So, what happens here is you're in
New York City and probably IU would say that the best pickpockets in the world
are in Grand Central Terminal in New York City. They've been doing it for
years, that's how they make a living doing it. Well, it used to be, they used
to pick your pocket and then take your money out of your wallet, and a lot of
times just throw everything else away including the credit cards. They don't
want anything to trace back to them. They're looking for cash. Now what they do
is they pick your pocket, they go through it, and they see a business card or
you know some people say, have a little card in there, "If lost" and
it has their name and address and contact...
[00:09:42] HOST: And
people don't have cash as much anymore.
[00:09:43] HOST: So,
what they do is they immediately call your home, and your wife answers and they
go, "Yes, ma'am, my name is Robert Johnson. I was in the Grand Central
Terminal this morning, and I found a wallet on the ground, and I picked it up,
and it had about $150 cash in it, but also a VISA, MasterCard, American
Express, but I noticed that there was a card in here with the phone number of
the person's home. So I'm calling you to tell you that I found the
wallet." "Oh, my God. My husband's in New York today, he lost his
wallet, he's probably not even aware of it." "Well, listen, I've had
this happen to me before, so here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to walk
across the street to the post office, and I will mail this to your right now
Priority Mail." "Oh, that is so kind of you." "Not a
problem, I'm happy to do it." In the meantime, she calls her husband and
says, "Hey, you lost..." "Yes, I just realized it. I called the
credit card companies, cancel all my cards." "No, no, the man has
found your wallet, he's already dropped it in the mail, he's sending it back
Priority Mail." "Oh great."
[00:10:41] HOST: Don't
Abagnale: When then he's able to go use all the credit cards and everything,
they weren't cancelled and everybody falls for that. They fall for that because
no one wants to call and cancel all their credit cards.
[00:10:52] HOST: Wow.
Alright, so don't...
Abagnale: So the thing is, do not believe that call, you immediately go and
cancel your cards. It doesn't cost anything to cancel them. You cancel them,
even if it may turn out they sent it back temporarily.
[00:11:07] HOST: You
can temporarily cancel them, right?
Abagnale: Yeah, much better to be safer.
Alright. I lost my credit, my wallet actually on a vacation, and my, my poor
mom ended up getting a call about some warrant or arrest for my, under my name,
or something. I'm not sure what they were, what the scam as, and she left this
sort of worried message for me. I said, no, everything's alright, but and I
ended up getting a call from the local police department and they had my
wallet, so somehow, I think along the way they got it in somebody's hands who
wanted to try to scam me or my mom and ended up getting the police department.
So I'm not quite sure what path it took there, but alright, Frank, really
interesting stories, and I'm sure there's more scams you could share with us.
Ones we've never thought of. Alright, so up next, we are going to check in with
the AARP Fraud Watch Network Team. We're going to hear all about how the AARP
can help you, if you think you've been scammed or if you have been scammed, and
what they're doing to protect people.
Alright, I'd like to welcome Kristen Keckeisen. She is the campaign director
for the AARP Fraud Watch Network. Kristen, thanks for being here.
Keckeisen: Thank you for having me.
[00:12:17] HOST: It's a
scary world out there, and the Fraud Watch Network is here to help. There's a
bunch of components, but the main ones are the hotline, right, and also the
Fraud Watch Network, the map.
Keckeisen: We have the Fraud Watch Network Helpline, yes, where people can call
if they, if they think they've spotted a scam, if they, you know, if they've
actually experienced a scam, if they've actually been defrauded, they can call
our 800 number and talk to, to real live volunteers who can help them figure
out what to do and you know what, what's the next step they need to take.
[00:12:47] HOST: And
the map is really, you go on, on the site, what's the site that we can lead
people to is...
Keckeisen: It's AARP.org/fraudwatchnetwork.
[00:12:56] HOST: That's
easy, and as I look at it, I haven't focused in on any part of the country, but
the entire country is an exclamation mark of frauds, and it's kind of
frightening, I mean...
Keckeisen: It, it's very frightening, it's very frightening. There are a lot of
scammers out there and they all have one goal, to separate you from your money.
Our scam tracking map is a great way to see what's happening across the
country, but also, what's happening in your own neighborhood.
[00:13:23] HOST: Let me
ask you this, this may be a hard thing to track, but if someone has been a
victim of a scam or a fraud, is there a sense that they're then more
vulnerable, they're on some list or something, hackers got them out there.
Keckeisen: You've got it. Yes, once, once a person has been victimized once,
they are then on what scammers call a sucker list. And they, those lists are
bought and sold on the dark web or, you know, on the, basically on, on the, the
black market between scammers and you know, if a person has been victimized
once for, for a number of reasons, they're more likely to be, to be victimized
again. And, you know, our research has told us time and time again, that if
people have experienced negative life experiences, they are, are more likely to
be defrauded. If they are having financial troubles, or if they're deeply in
debt, if they've suffered the loss of a loved one, if they, you know, have lost
a job, they're, they're more likely to, to be the victim of a scam. You know
perhaps because they're feeling more desperate, you know and they're, they're
looking for that good thing that, that's going to happen to them, and along
comes a scammer who, you know, dangles in front of them, you know riches,
wealth you know, easy money, you know they're more likely to, to take them up
on it because they're more in need.
[00:14:40] HOST: Well,
a lot of times it's, it's riches or wealth or easy money, and then a lot of
times it's just pure old threats and people, I'm looking at one right now on
the scam map, from out in the middle of the country and, and it's talking about
the IRS, saying they're going to file a lawsuit against someone.
Keckeisen: All of these things that scammers do are intended to get you into a
state that they will call under the ether.
[00:15:01] HOST: Will
Johnson: Under the ether. This is an actual term.
Keckeisen: Under the ether. This is an actual term that, that fraudsters have
used. They have you in a emotional state that makes logic go out the window.
When you start to get in that state, you need, that's the time to back off,
take a few steps back, calm down, and say, I need to think about this. Let me
call you tomorrow.
[00:15:24] HOST: Tell
us about some scams that people are seeing a lot, or getting a lot of calls
Keckeisen: Well there's a, there's a, actually a fairly new scam out there
right now, for people who are Medicare age. People may or may not know that
Medicard... Medicare is going to be replacing your old Medicare cards.
Currently your Medicare card has your social security number on it. And what's
going on right now is that they're calling people up, they're you know they're,
they're telling them, hey, your Medicare card's going to be replaced, it's not
going to have the social security number on it anymore, and for just you know
$200, we can expedite the replacement of your card so you won't be you know
vulnerable to this kind of fraud anymore and people are saying, well, okay, you
know if that's, if that's what hap--, what's happening, I need to do that. But,
in fact, that is not the case. If you are a Medicare beneficiary, you're
start--, your card will be replaced automatically, and they'll be phased in
over time, there's nothing you can do to make it come faster and there's,
there's nobody out there who wants money to replace your card. And we also are
getting ready to launch an initiative to warn people about ancestry websites on
Facebook as well. There's a lot of them out there some of them are legitimate,
others are not, and they ask you for a lot of personal information, you know
which seems logical because right, you're trying to help people find their, you
know, their relatives, their ancestors and so on. So they, you know, they ask
for a lot of personal information that, you know that, that scammers can use to
steal your identity.
Alright, so Kristen, if people want to do go the website, look at the map, or
call, where do they need to go? And again, this is for, this is important for
somebody who maybe has been the victim of a scam or maybe your mom or dad, or
maybe your grandparents, people of all ages can go here and see what's going
Keckeisen: Go to AARP.org/fraudwatchnetwork. Tons of great resources there, and
if you, if you think you've been a victim of a scam, you know or if you, if
you've just spotted something and you're really not sure whether it's a scam
and you want to talk to somebody about it, please call our helpline, call the
Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360.
Alright. Kristen Keckeisen is Campaign Director for The AARP Fraud Watch
Network. Thanks a lot for talking to us.
Keckeisen: Thank you.
Alright, we'd like to welcome Amy Nofziger, AARP Fraud Expert to the podcast.
Amy, how's it going?
Nofziger: I'm great, how are you?
[00:17:59] HOST: I'm
good. So can we reveal where you are, where the call center is? We're going to
tell people all about what you do and how you help people avoid and then report
Nofziger: Certainly. So I am actually located in Denver, and that is where one
of our volunteer managed call centers is. We also have one in Seattle,
Washington. Anybody that has any concern about frauds or scams happening in
their, their lives, or family's lives, or friend's life can call us. We have
trained volunteers who answer the phone lines and again, both of our Denver and
Seattle offices, and they are there to guide you and listen to you and to be
that trusted voice on the other end of the line. So even if you haven't lost
money, but let's say you've just got a really suspicious phone call and you're
a little nervous about it, and you might think it's a scam, certainly call us
and report it to us, because that's actually how we find out about a lot of our
scams or from the people in the community. Any time you have any suspicion,
just call us and we can help you through it.
[00:18:53] HOST: Amy, I
hear you've been doing this a while, right?
Nofziger: About 15 years, a while.
[00:18:59] HOST: So I'm
going to put you on the spot here with a few questions. What's the weirdest
call you’ve gotten for, for a type of scam or fraud? Weirdest scam?
Nofziger: Well, we always say to our volunteers, you never know what's going to
happen when you pick up the other end of that line, so we have gotten
complaints about, and I'm not even joking, we've gotten complaints about their
bagel was too small, but we certainly treat that like anything else and help
them understand how to work with a business with a complaint, but you know,
there's just, the scammers are always thinking of stuff, and they're very
creative and they're very nimble. So, sometimes I even have to scratch my head
and go, okay, what are they, what's their motivation behind this because I feel
like I've heard it all. Everything weird is out there.
[00:19:43] HOST: Well I
like the, I like the small bagel complaint. That seems legit to me. As you look
back over 10 years or so, how have things changed? Certainly we've got a lot
more technology out there.
Nofziger: Yeah, technology has certainly made things change. I will say, one of
the things that we are certainly dealing with right now are the robo dials that
come from like a voice operating system or a predictive dialer where your phone
rings, you see the phone number, it has a city and state on it, but that is not
where the physical location of that person is calling you from. The number
bounces around and they could be out of the country, and for a lot of people
who didn't grow up with that technology, there is still that misconception or
that myth that law enforcement can trace that phone number back to a physical
address and get those bad guys, but we certainly know that that is not true,
and so just helping people understand how technology is great, but it also can
be used to the scammer's advantage and just how to learn how to teach
themselves and learn on their phone. Maybe you don't pick it up if you don't
recognize the number, or if you keep getting a number from a scammer, you block
[00:20:49] HOST: As far
as who's getting scammed the most, is that a pretty difficult thing to
pinpoint? I assume it's all ages, all walks of life.
Nofziger: Yeah, everyone, everyone has a vulnerability or a trigger to be
scammed, it doesn't matter who you are, what your education level is, I always
say, you need to know what your vulnerabilities are, and they do change, so
right, if you're looking for a job, you're vulnerable to a work at home scam or
something like that. If you're, like, for myself, I'm a mother, I would have a
vulnerability with a virtual kidnapping scam. I mean so, again, know your
vulnerabilities and know the red flags of them, and that's how you're going to
[00:21:26] HOST: Tell
us about the virtual kidnapping scam. That sounds insidious and awful and we
need, we need to know about it.
Nofziger: It is, it is, absolutely is. Yeah, so you'll get a, a phone call or
an email saying that one of your loved ones has been kidnapped. And they are
holding them for ransom and that you need to go right away to wire money. It's
very similar in the threads of the grandparent scam, of, you know, you are,
this is your grandchild calling, and they are being held at the jail because
they were arrested in a foreign country and you need to go wire money or send a
prepaid gift card to them to release this person. So, again what they do is
they get you under that, what we call emotional ether, and so they get you
scared, your heartrate starts going, and you're really not thinking
cognitively, you're thinking emotionally, because at that moment, the only
thing that's on your mind is getting that person safe.
[00:22:16] HOST: Yeah,
you know, you mentioned going to get a, a money card or something like that.
We've talked to some scam victims who have been you know, directed to obviously
this is a relatively common thing, but directed to a local pharmacy or a store
where they can go to a money machine and it almost sounds like when they're
telling the story, that the person is like standing there in the store and
watching them, like turn right, and there's a cash machine right there or
something like that.
Nofziger: Well, a lot of times, and I just recently heard this last week, a lot
of the victims, they'll keep them on the phone. I even heard that this scammer
was on the phone for 24 hours with this victim, so, they're pretty much
brainwashing them and keeping them under that ether at all times so they can
control them. But you're exactly right, they, they know how to use technology
to even look at these stores, right to look at the stores, to know where the
entrance is, to even know what the victim's houses look like so it makes it
seem more legitimate.
[00:23:07] HOST: 24
hours, that's, that a dedicated persistent scammer, but it gives you, it gives
you an idea of how, of how much, the lengths they will go to to get what they
Nofziger: Absolutely. And oftentimes they work in teams, so you know, it might
not have been them the whole time, and people will say, well gosh, well that's
a lot of effort, and I'm like, yeah, but they got $5,000 from the victim.
Right, $5,000 in 24 hours of work? I mean that's not, that's not bad, so but
they don't really have anything else to do, so they will invest that time and
[00:23:37] HOST: Other
than calling the number we're talking about here, going to the right
authorities, and, and discussing something, is it, I'm guessing I know the
answer to this question, is it ever a wise idea to engage a scammer in a
feeling that you might be able to turn the tables on them or something like
Nofziger: No I, again, I have talked to so many people and I have heard so many
stories about how, you know they'll, they'll, they'll egg the scammer on and
they'll them what a bad person they are, or they'll blow a whistle in the
phone, or they'll leave the phone down. Hang up the phone. Hang up the phone,
hang up the phone, delete the email, and hang up the phone. I don't know how
many times I can say that because one, you're giving them an in. You're giving
them an in to your life, regardless of your blowing a whistle, you're giving them
an in and again, these are good, trained scammers. I've read studies about how
scammers will study how to scam people, and they'll read books on persuasion
tactics. It's done. They know how to manipulate people and they know how to get
it in. So just hang up the phone, do not engage, and then really report it.
[00:24:43] HOST: Right,
Amy, tell us the number to call again, and any last advice you have for people
who are worried about or need to think about calling about a scam or fraud.
[00:24:53] Amy Nofziger:
Yeah, the number if 877-908-3360.
[00:25:01] HOST: Amy,
it's been really great and helpful talking to you. We're going to let you go,
but thanks so much and, and we appreciate your time.
Nofziger: Thank you so much.
[00:25:09] HOST: Amy
Nofziger is Fraud Expert for the AARP.
[00:25:13] HOST: For
more information and resources on how to protect yourself from scam artists,
Alright, I'd like to thank our producers, Julie Getz and Brook Ellis; our audio
engineer, Julio Gonzales, and of course, my cohost, Frank Abagnale. And be sure
to subscribe, download, rate, and of course, like our podcast on Apple Podcast
or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.
END OF TRANSCRIPT
How to Listen and Subscribe to The Perfect Scam
- Open the Podcasts app, search for the show title and select it from the list of results.
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- Click the name of an episode from the list below to listen.
- Open the Google Play Music app, search for the show title and select it from the list of results.
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- Click the name of an episode from the list below to listen.
Smart Speakers (Amazon Echo or Google Home)
- To play podcasts on your Amazon Echo smart speaker, ask the following: "Alexa, ask TuneIn to play The Perfect Scam podcast" OR "Alexa, play The Perfect Scam podcast on TuneIn"
- To play podcasts on your Google Home smart speaker, ask the following: "Hey Google, Play The Perfect Scam podcast"