Although people over age 65 make up only an eighth of the U.S. population, they constitute as many as a third of all scam victims. The reasons for this disproportionate vulnerability may be related to memory loss, loneliness and a more trusting nature. Scammers approach their victims by phone, by mail and by e-mail, and scams can involve identity theft, insurance fraud, investment fraud, credit card charges, phony lotteries and fake sweepstakes.
Learn how to use available resources to help get others to check their credit reports, remove their information from untrustworthy call lists and mailing lists and shred their unneeded personal documents.
This Fraud Fighters Do It Yourself (DIY) toolkit was created for you to help family, friends and neighbors educate themselves on the risks of consumer fraud. By following a few simple steps, you can help take action and minimize the incidence of fraud.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network (www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork) is a great resource for staying up on con artists' latest tricks and finding out what to do if you - or a family member, friend or neighbor - is victimized.
STEP 1: GET STARTED - SELECT THREE FRIENDS OR NEIGHBORS
Choose three friends or neighbors or family members you plan to assist. (Of course, you can help as many as you would like, but three is a great starting point.)
STEP 2: REVIEW THE "TIPS FOR PROTECTING YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION"
You can copy and forward this tip sheet (below) or print and share it with a family member, friend or neighbor. You may even want to offer to help put their names on the Do Not Call list; to post a simple “I am not interested” script by their phone; and/or to stop unwanted pre-approved credit offers from coming their way. You can always print more copies.
STEP 3: REVIEW THE "TIPS FOR STOPPING AND SPOTTING INVESTMENT FRAUD" BELOW
Share and offer to review this tip sheet (below) on how to spot and stop investment fraud with family, friends, or neighbors. You can always print more copies for other acquaintances.
For more information on fighting fraud, visit www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.
STEP 4: FIND OUT ABOUT SHREDDING EVENTS IN YOUR COMMUNITY
Community shredding events help citizens prevent fraud at the most basic level by safely destroying documents such as old credit card and bank statements, which often contain individuals’ personal identifying information. Offer a ride to others who cannot drive or who need help carrying the heavy paperwork, so they can safely get rid of documents (rather than throwing them in the trash where thieves can find them).
STEP 5: INSPIRE OTHERS ON CREATE THE GOOD
KEEP UP THE GOOD!
Visit Create The Good for a wide range of opportunities to use your life experience, skills and passions to benefit your community.
How can you help your family, friends and neighbors protect their personal information? Here are some tips you can give them:
- To stop unwanted telemarketing phone calls, join the national Do Not Call Registry by calling, toll-free, 1-888-382-1222 from the number you want to register, or go to www.donotcall.gov. You can register your home phone and your cell phone.
- To stop getting pre-approved offers of credit or insurance, call, toll-free, 1-888-5-OPT-OUT.
- Paste an “I am not interested” script by your telephone that reminds you to just tell anyone trying to sell you something that you are not interested. Then just hang up! Never give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact and know who the party is on the other side of the transaction.
- Be very careful about giving out your Social Security Number. Your bank may need it, but a department store probably does not. Ask if you can use a substitute number with businesses and health-care offices. And don’t carry your card in your wallet.
- Don’t leave your checkbook, wallet or other personal papers lying on a table or anywhere visitors could see your private information.
- Get a copy of your credit report at least once a year. Read your report to be sure the information is correct and that no one has used your information to get credit, a job or a loan. Report any mistakes to the company that sent you the report. Call toll-free 1-877-322-8228 to order a free report, or go to www.annualcreditreport.com. You must answer security questions to get the report.
- If you believe that someone else has had inappropriate access to your personal information, place a fraud alert on your credit bureau accounts. You can also consider placing a security freeze on your accounts. For more information on whether these options are right for your situation, go to www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud.
- Visit www.onguardonline.gov for practical tips from the federal government to help guard you against internet fraud.
- Visit www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork for free tips and resources to combat fraud, including watchdog alerts, a fraud watch helpline (1-877-908-3360) and updates on the latest fraudulent scams affecting your state.
How can you help your family, friends, and neighbors choose safe ways to invest? This checklist is your answer to helping spot and stop investment fraud.
- Know the Signs of a Scam: Listen for promises of high return and low risk — promises that can’t be met. If you feel pressured, STOP! Take your time and check it out. And most important, remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Visit www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud.
- Check the Person and Check the Product: Make sure the person selling you the investment is licensed and that the product is registered with your state securities regulator or with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Insurance products are regulated by your state insurance commission. Before you invest, follow the steps below:
- To check the person and product, contact your state securities regulator. Visit www.nasaa.org (click “Contact Your Regulator”). You can also investigate the financial company or professional at www.finra.org/brokercheck.
- If you are offered an insurance product, contact the insurance regulator in your state. Visit www.naic.org.
- Beware of “Free Lunch” Seminars: AARP and regulatory agencies are concerned that some free, educational presentations and events are thinly disguised sales pitches or scams for products that may not be right for you.
- Understand Professional Designations: Don’t be misled by credentials that are meaningless. It’s easy to find out what all those initials following a professional’s name mean at http://apps.finra.org.
- Make Sure the Product is Right for You: A sound investment should follow five basic principles: Keep fees low, keep it simple, diversify, rebalance your investments to stay on track, and consider using index funds. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org/money/investing.
- This handbook provides information about the 13 most common ways con artists steal your hard-earned money as well as tips on how to protect yourself, your family and others.
- This resource, developed based on hundreds of hours of undercover fraud tapes as well as interviews with victims and con artists, shines a spotlight on the common strategies scammers use and gives you the tools to defend yourself.