AARP Massachusetts brings you news about scams involving summertime door-to-door home repair scams; auto repair complaints; prize scams; and a free, downloadable publication called “Avoiding Tech Support Scams” from AARP and the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit.  

Read more and take heed!

Avoiding Tech Support Scams

AARP and Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit have come out with a new booklet called “Avoiding Tech Support Scams.”  If you have not experienced a tech support scam yet, chances are you know someone who has.  According to a 2016 Microsoft survey, two out of three people have experienced a tech support scam during the past year.

 

This booklet covers the do’s and don’ts of tech scams, and what to do if you think you have been scammed.

 How it Works:

The “old school” method of tech support scams follows an all-too-common pattern: a fraudster calls a senior citizen claiming to have a relationship with a reputable company; misrepresents the existence of computer viruses or other technical problems on a computer; and proceeds to sell the senior citizen unnecessary tech support for a fee.

While the above method still occurs today, research indicates a startling number of millennials are falling victim to tech support fraud. Fifty percent of all respondents who continued with a fraudulent interaction fell between the ages of 18 and 34. These results may, at first glance, appear surprising, challenging our preconceived notions that fraudsters target senior citizens.

The research also reveals that fraudsters’ tactics are evolving. By leveraging pop-up windows, unsolicited email, and scam websites as additional entry points for scams, fraudsters are reaching a broader number of people, including younger victims. The data indicates that victims older than 65 are more likely to be reached by telephone (44 percent were conned by an unsolicited call, 38 percent a popup or online ad, 33 percent an unsolicited email, and 26 percent redirected to a website).

In contrast, millennials ages 18 to 34 are more likely to have been redirected to a fraudulent website (50 percent) or duped by a pop-up advertisement (59 percent) as compared to receiving an unsolicited call (26 percent).

What You Should Do:

Download your copy of the booklet, which covers the do’s and don’ts of tech scams, and what to do if you think you have been scammed.


Door-to-Door Home Repair Scams

The summer months are prime time for home repair scams. They take various forms, but the general ruse involves someone coming to your door and offering to do work on your home, typically at a big discount.

How it Works:

A con artist representing him- or herself as a contractor comes to your door and claims s/he has just completed work for a neighbor. Since s/he’s in the neighborhood, s/he’ll say, you can get work done at a steep discount. Only s/he will demand payment upfront, and then disappear. Or s/he’ll do the work but it will be shoddy, or s/he will demand more money to finish the job.

What You Should Do:

Be wary of anyone who comes to your door and offers to fix a problem. A safe bet is to avoid working with contractors who contact you. 

  • Be aware that the con artist will try to pressure you into making a decision quickly.
  • He or she will likely ask you to pay for the work upfront.
  • Be sure to always get a written estimate and compare bids before starting any work.
  • Ask any contractor for three references and check them.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints before you hire a contractor.

When you do need to get work done, ask friends, neighbors and relatives for recommendations. And never pay a thing until you have a written contract in hand. Be sure to share this alert with family, friends and neighbors!


Auto Repair Scams

Auto repair complaints consistently rank among the top consumer grievances. Watch for these warning signs of unnecessary and overpriced service by dishonest mechanics.

How it Works:

Many rip-offs are the work of outright crooks who, betting that you are clueless about what’s under the hood, knowingly try to sell unnecessary repairs. They snow you with terminology you don’t understand. But sometimes inflated bills come from car mechanics who don’t know what the problem is and replace various parts in hopes of finding a resolution.

Beware of mechanics who say ‘I know the problem and you need X’ without saying how they came to that conclusion — via a computer diagnosis, test drive, inspection on the lift, some combination — or can’t easily describe the planned course of action.

Modern vehicles contain lots of computing power, so you should insist on a high-tech check for dashboard warnings and other drive-impacting issues. This computerization removes a lot of the guesswork.

Oil change add-ons

Many repair shops barely break even on routine services like oil changes, so you can be confident that a mechanic will give your car a thorough inspection looking for other possible jobs. Be suspicious if you’re handed a long list of recommended add-ons if your car is running fine.

A common con that can pad a bill by hundreds of dollars is the “wallet flush.” The mechanic changes the radiator coolant and the fluids for your power steering, automatic transmission and brakes, when your car doesn’t need it. Many newer cars, for instance, have extended-life coolant that lasts up to 100,000 miles.

Front-end fraud

Unless you notice handling problems, be suspicious if a mechanic says your car needs front-end work like an alignment or new ball joints. Most customers can’t easily locate or identify those parts. And with ominous warnings from the mechanic about steering loss, the repairs have a high scare factor. If your car seems to be driving fine, get a second opinion.

What You Should Do:

Auto repair quotes should come with an explanation that, in clear and simple terms, lays out exactly what work and parts are needed, their cost and how the problem was detected. Make the owner’s manual your guide to all scheduled maintenance, and know what your car needs for service and at what intervals.

If you’re uncertain about what you’re being told, get a second opinion — or —  find a first-rate, honest car repair shop. How? By obtaining referrals from friends and neighbors, or by calling your car insurer for its list of recommended body shops in your area.

Know too that the best car repair shops are usually local businesses looking for a long-term, full-service relationship. The cars you see awaiting repairs should be similar to yours — in age and, ideally, make and model.

Finally, compare prices. Get price estimates at sites like consumerreports.org/cars/repair, repairpal.com/estimator, automd.com/repaircost or openbay.com. Expect to pay at least 20 percent more at a dealership. Keep in mind that reputable full-service independent and franchise shops can handle most anything except recalls, warranty repairs, post-warranty fixes, and repairs to high-tech electrical and AC systems.


“You’ve Won … a Prize Scam”

There are plenty of reputable contests and sweepstakes out there (including some from AARP). But there are also a lot of bad players looking to bilk you out of your money. The best rule of thumb, hands-down, is this: You can’t win a contest you didn’t enter (and don’t believe claims that you were automatically entered).

How it Works:

You’re told you’ve won a prize but:

  • You have to pay a fee to collect your winnings;
  • You have to wire money to a well-known company to insure delivery of the prize;
  • You have to deposit a check they have sent you;
  • Your notice was mailed by bulk rate; or
  • You have to attend a sales meeting to win.

What You Should Do:


 Be a fraud fighter!

If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

Report scams to your local law enforcement.

Contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or 1-877-908-3360 to report a scam or for more information on scam and fraud prevention.

Spotted a scam?  Tell us about it.  Our scam-tracking map gives you information about the latest scams targeting people in your state.  You’ll also find first-hand accounts from scam-spotters who are sharing their experiences so you know how to protect yourself and your family.

 

 

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