Anita McInnis, First Quarter, 2017 Fraud Watch Network’s Fraud Fighter

Anita McInnis, from Bellflower in Los Angeles, became an AARP member 18 years ago “I just knew this was a good organization and joining it would be a good thing for me at this new stage of my life.” Anita was then 55 years old. She decided to become a volunteer when she got a postcard asking her if she wanted to protect her healthcare. “That’s when I became involved in the campaign ‘Divided We Fail’. I was never political at all and as a matter of fact, I avoided politics.”

Anita’s journey as a volunteer has evolved over time. From just being one in a large group of volunteers and just showing up in legislative visits, to now being a District Liaison scheduling and attending meetings with elected officials, all on her own.

“The first time I went to a legislative meeting I just sat there and listened. The second time I was able to read out our material during the meeting. But then the time came when I was asked by Sam Thomas, our volunteer leader, to actually speak. So, after I picked up my heart back from the floor and got myself up together, I was able to speak about the issue that by then I knew more and felt more confident about.”

Anita is now one of several AARP’s California District Liaison. She is our liaison for District 40th, located in the City of Commerce. “It is interesting to see that now it is getting harder to get meetings because now so many more activists are involved. When we started, we were practically the only ones.” Still, Anita tells us that going to talk to the elected official is great and she always feels welcomed.  “The representatives I go to love AARP and they are very supportive of the issues that we bring to them. They like hearing from us and bring back to Washington our information. We are a good tool for them to use when they got in to fight for all of these issues.”

Anita decided to also become a volunteer for the Fraud Watch Network (FWN) after she got an invitation from Strat Maloma to assist with a presentation. “Strat sent me all the information about what we were going to do ahead of time so I would know exactly what my role would be.” Since that first event, Anita has been a volunteer for several other opportunities for the FWN and helped signed up many people so they would receive our alerts.  “I love doing events. It is my favorite part of the AARP process. We tell people what the FWN is all about, give them the literature and they sign up to receive our alerts.”

As an FWN volunteer, Anita has changed some of her own behaviors to protect herself from frauds and scams. “I now use the FWN’s protective card holders; I have been sharing information with people about the different kinds of scams that come up constantly, pass information around and give them my card so they can call me when they have a question so I can direct them to the right direction.”

“I am happy to be a volunteer,” Anita said.

Linda Springer of San Gabriel Valley, CA Second Quarter, 2017 Fraud Watch Network’s Fraud Fighter

Linda Springer, from the San Gabriel Valley, is our Second Quarter, 2017 Fraud Fighter. Linda has been an AARP member for three years, and she tells us that she has found articles in the AARP Magazine and the Bulletin very helpful at this stage of her life. “For example,” she says, “I was quite unhappy with my job where I have been working for 17 years, I and wanted a change. There is such a wealth of information that AARP provides you about getting a job and what kinds of skills are transferable. I was able to update my resume and get myself a LinkedIn page and eventually landed a new job where I have been since April of this year.”  By the end of her first year as an AARP member, Linda was ready to become a volunteer. And when she learned that there was an AARP office near her home, she decided to find out how she could get involved. “When I learned that they had a fraud-prevention campaign, my eyes lit up, because, as someone who didn’t grow up with computers, I am very suspicious and always been very aware of how frauds have been perpetrated.”

Linda also learned that, based on the most recent membership survey, the Fraud Watch Network (FWN) is the number one reason why many people renew their AARP membership. “We will never run out of topics to share with the public,” she says since scammers are always coming up with new ways to victimize people.

“It used to be that a criminal had to get up, get out, break into a house, and break into a cabinet, but now they can sit in front of their computers wearing their sleepers and break into all kind of things,” Linda said.

So far, Linda has had the opportunity to staff the AARP FWN’s booth at various community outreach events, and she is looking to initiate conversations in the near future about holding Fraud Watch Network presentations in the San Gabriel Valley in the evenings and on weekends.

Linda sees her volunteering with the FWN Campaign as an opportunity to “meet people and use her transferable skills [on] something that is convenient and has an organized program.” Linda likes the fact that the FWN’s “presentations are already created, with sound bites and videos. Doing the research and building the presentation is the hardest part of the work. I don’t mind getting in front of the public.”

Linda recognizes that “trying to keep yourself safe, [against] cyber scams and identity theft is very important. People really want this information — it is a very hot topic.”

While at community events, Linda tells us that one of the things she highlights to people who come to our booth, is the FWN’s hotline. “I have tremendous respect for the people who work the FWN’s hotline because they’re really helping people who already have been victimized and are able to assist them and tell them what to do.”

Congratulations to Linda Springer, our Second Quarter, 2017 Fraud Fighter.

Aneesah Shah of Inglewood, CA, Third Quarter, 2017 Fraud Watch Network’s Fraud Fighter

Aneesah Shah has been an AARP member since 2012 and just last year decided it was time to become a volunteer. Her moment of inspiration came when she and her older sister attended a free screening of the movie “Hidden Figures,” which was hosted by AARP as part of its Movies for Grownups program. Aneesha tells us that she was quite impressed by the volunteers who welcomed her and her sister with open arms as if they were old friends.

“I told my sister ‘I want to be like them!’. It was like you were at your family’s home to watch a movie.”

Aneesah then asked one of the volunteers how she could join them, and she was told to visit www.aarp.org/volunteer to sign up as an AARP volunteer.

“Right after I signed up through this website, I got an email from Antoine Cook about when the orientations were going to be online. Right then and there I knew I was going to like this.”

A volunteer opportunity with the Fraud Watch Campaign came up when Strat Maloma, the campaign lead, was organizing a Shred Fest at Councilmember Current Price’s office.

“It was just natural for me to greet people as they arrived and answer any questions they might have about fraud. After that experience, I wanted to do as many Shred Fest events as I could around my neighborhood.”

Besides helping out during Shred Fests, Aneesha has also volunteered for a screening of the fraud-focused movie entitled “Hacker” at the La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown Los Angeles.

“I was a registrar there, and while that was a lot of fun, I also learned through this movie about how hackers work. We even heard the testimony of a woman who got her identity stolen by a person she had just met!”

The movie and the woman’s story were a wake-up call for Aneesah to be sure she remembers to be very careful about what she says to people she doesn’t  know. Through her volunteer experience at the FWN events, Aneesha has learned that many people want to know more about how to protect their identities from criminals.

“I think that sharing is caring, especially with older people,” says Aneesah. That’s why she wants to continue to do as much as she can to educate others from all backgrounds.

“When you go to the different places to volunteer you see and meet so many different people. To me, there is no color, just beautiful people with whom I can share myself with. There is no color barrier with AARP, and it is wonderful to be in such a community-driven organization,” she said.

Aneesah has also been taking an active role in AARP’s Livable Communities work, most recently serving as the lead volunteer for a series of events held during the month of November to mark the first anniversary of the passage of Measure M, the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan.

“I am truly grateful for my time in my life right now because I had no idea that by volunteering with AARP I would also have the opportunity to be myself and have this much fun. Being a volunteer is so much fun to me!”

Lora Lary, Fourth Quarter, 2017 Fraud Watch Network’s Fraud Fighter

Lora decided to become an AARP member as soon as she turned 50 years old. It wasn’t until 12 years later, in 2005, that she became an AARP volunteer after being invited by a friend who was very active at AARP’s Chapter 5117. This friend was a relative of Rosa Parks. “My friend kept insisting on recruiting me as a volunteer before I retired, but once I retired in 2004, I finally went to one of the meetings. My friend was busy that day doing things for Rosa Parks so she couldn’t attend the meeting,” but still Lora got hooked by the enthusiasm and warmth of the chapter members. It was during that meeting that she heard about the AARP national event, Life@50+, in Las Vegas, which she thought that would be a great event to attend. “When I came back from Las Vegas, I accepted the invitation of my chapter to become its president,” she said.

After Lora became president of her chapter, she began looking for resources and attended an AARP volunteer meeting where she met AARP staff member Antoine Cook, who was responsible for working with AARP chapters in California. “Right after that, we were drafting activists to demand better health care reform in California when Arnold Schwarzenegger was the governor.”

In 2013, Lora was one of the first California volunteers to join the AARP Fraud Watch Network, just as the campaign was getting started. “I like being a volunteer because I like to interact with people. But in the case of the Fraud Watch Campaign, I also get to help people to be more aware of what is going on and the different scams that the fraudsters come up with. They want to take away your money that you worked so hard for!”

As a volunteer for the Fraud Watch Network, (FWN) Lora goes out into the community, shares literature, and helps people sign up for the Fraud Watch scam alerts. “Once they have received the information about the campaign, people are eager to sign up to get our scams alerts,” Lora says. Recently, Lora volunteered with the First AME Church where they had a presentation on fraud awareness. She has also done presentations for community organizations, churches, and AARP chapters, including her own.

“We tell people not to give out their personal information when they answer the phone and also not to open any emails that come from people they don’t know.”

Ironically, Lora herself was the target of a scam — but she knew exactly what to do. “I received a priority package and when I opened it was a product I have never ordered. I called the company and the man told me that it looked like someone had my debit card number and that I should change it.” Lora wanted to return the product but the man on the phone told her that she could just throw it away. “I changed my debit card and kept the product and took it around to some of the places when I was doing my FWN presentations to demonstrate how the first thing scammers do is to try to find out if your card number is a good number and if it works, they will try to charge a larger amount.”

Lora plans to continue working as a volunteer in 2018 and beyond because “I am still really surprised that people are still giving away information and also because I enjoy working with AARP and being a volunteer.”