AARP Washington, 9750 3rd Ave. NE, Suite 450, Seattle, WA 98115
206-517-9345, 206-517-9350 Fax, www.aarp.org/wa
For Immediate Release
October 23, 2013
206-517-9345 (office) / 206-604-7085 (cell)
Attorney General, King County Sheriff and AARP Join Hundreds of Local Seniors to Launch Statewide Fight Against Fraud
New “Fraud Watch Network” to provide on-the-ground‘eyes and ears’ in battle to protect consumers
Seattle –Faye Schwartz is fed up with the havoc identity thieves are wreaking on her life. Over a period of eight years, at least four fraudulent credit card accounts have been opened in her name. She was alerted to the first incident by Canadian police who had confiscated a fraudulent boiler room list including her name and personal information. “Just when I think it’s all over, I receive another bill for hundreds of dollars in items I never purchased,” said Schwartz. “It just goes on and on and on.” The 81-year-old Burien resident says she’s now scared to death to use a credit card. She tries to make most purchases by cash or check and is extra vigilant now when anyone requests her personal information.
Unfortunately Schwartz isn’t alone. Consumers lose billions of dollars every year to various kinds of consumer fraud, and according to AARP reports, older adults are especially vulnerable. A 2011 AARP survey of fraud victims revealed that 81% of investment fraud victims and 84% of lottery fraud victims were over the age of 55.
That’s why AARP joined Attorney General Bob Ferguson and other consumer fraud experts today to launch a statewide fight against fraud. Schwartz was among a capacity crowd of more than 250 local seniors who packed the Museum of Flight in Seattle for SCAM JAM to learn about the latest scams and schemes and what they could do to protect themselves and the people they care about.
“Whether it’s over the phone, through the mail, online or even at your doorstep, con-artists are coming up with new and deceptive ways to scam you and your loved ones,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “But we’re fighting back, and today’s event is the first in a series of efforts to make Washington the hardest state in the nation to defraud consumers.”
The effort will feature local events around the state, telephone town halls, webinars, advertising, and other educational materials and resources. A key tactic is the development of the “Fraud Watch Network,” providing the eyes and ears against fraud across the state. “People who sign up as part of the ‘Fraud Watch Network’ will receive timely alerts and notifications about new scams as they emerge – and hopefully in time before they can snare new victims,” said AARP State Director Doug Shadel. “They’ll also be asked to report suspicious activity or raise concerns with the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Call Center based in Seattle.” The public can sign up for the “Fraud Watch Network” by calling toll-free 1-800-646-2283.
SCAM JAM attendees today received a jump on the cons through a series of presentations by leading consumer advocates and experts. King County Sheriff John Urquhart kicked off the event by focusing on some of today’s hottest scams including new ways identity thieves are working to steal your personal information.
Gerri Walsh, President of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, helped attendees outsmart investment fraud by learning to identify common persuasion techniques used by fraudsters and how to protect themselves by asking the right questions and then checking the answers they receive. “Investors need to carefully check out brokers and their products before making any investment decision,” said Walsh. “By law, brokers and their products must be registered. If they’re not, it could be a red flag.” Walsh encouraged people to visit www.saveandinvest.org for more information.
Doug Shadel, AARP State Director and author of “Outsmarting the Scam Artists,” provided an inside look at scams through the eyes of the con-artists themselves. His presentation included tips and techniques learned straight from convicted cons. “Various scams can come and go, but most con-artists will tell you that they all have something in common,” said Shadel. “Con-artists are master manipulators who hope to get you under the ‘ether’ – which is a heightened emotional state where you’ll suspend logical thinking for promises of wealth and prosperity. Most all victims will tell you that in hindsight they can’t believe they ever fell for a scam,” said Shadel. “But while you’re in the hands of a sophisticated con-man, just about anything can happen.”
Shadel cautioned people to slow down and provide some distance between the pitch and action. “Any deal worth considering is also worth taking a few days to think over,” said Shadel. “Never make a decision while the con-man has you under the ether.”
AARP Internet Security Expert Greg Hadley highlighted tips and tools that can help Internet users protect their personal information. In addition to using strong passwords, SPAM filters and anti-virus software, Hadley encouraged internet users to be careful about leaking sensitive personal information in emails. “Email is a great way to share and connect with family as well as to conduct business, but email is inherently insecure.” said Hadley, “Like a post card, it’s visible to anyone who looks. Avoid sending sensitive information like Social Security Numbers, credit cards, and passwords via email.”
KOMO 4 News Consumer Problem Solver Connie Thompson rounded out the day by highlighting local cases she says help explain why people over 50 are now the most valuable generation to scammers nationally and globally. “Con artists go to great lengths to get your money. At the end of the day, my one piece of advice for consumers would be to never respond to any offer, ad, phone call or internet post without first doing your own independent research. If someone wants you to respond on the spot, assume they’re looking to line their pockets at your expense.”
Next door to the event, AARP volunteer Fraud Fighters also kicked off a statewide calling blitz to warn Washingtonians about scams and schemes. Taking a page out of the con-man’s playbook, the volunteers operated their own “reverse boiler room.” “We’re the ‘good-guy’ version of the scamsters’ fraudulent boiler room,” said Call Center Director Jean Mathisen. “We’re making thousands of calls throughout the state to warn people about scams and fraud.”
Additional “SCAM JAM” events are planned for next year in Seattle, Kennewick and Spokane. For more information visit www.aarp.org/wa. To sign up for the “Fraud Watch Network” call toll-free 1-800-646-2283.