The numbers are in. The Federal Trade Commission released its report of fraud complaints from last year, and it was historically high, due in large part to COVID and the economic downturn. Criminals thrive in times of confusion and 2020 was the perfect storm. Staying on top of COVID related scams was a never-ending game of whack-a-mole for consumers, and the problem hasn’t gone away.
At the start of the pandemic, scammers hawked fake cures, treatments and vaccines. Now that vaccines are available, scammers are making bogus offers to move you to the front of the line for getting your vaccine – for a fee. Some are even setting up fake vaccine distribution sites. Unfortunately, this means that consumers looking for a vaccine appointment have to sort through fake and legitimate information in search for a shot – a process that can be confusing and dangerous.
Who couldn’t use a little extra money over the holidays? As many as a half million people will take seasonal jobs during the holiday season. And scammers will be out there trying to take advantage of seasonal workers by posing as employers on third-party websites. When you apply for these job listings, you will be promoted to provide personal information such as date of birth, address and Social Security number for “verification purposes.” Scammers can then use this information to steal your identity. One big red flag to look out for is a job which offers a lot of money for very little work. If the position seems too good to be true, it is probably a scam. If you have questions about a job listing you see online, go directly to the business website or give them a call.
Scams and frauds are on the rise, but Mainers can take active steps to protect themselves and their families. AARP Maine is once again collaborating with community partners to host free shredding events. All of our events will also include safe disposal of your unwanted or expired medications. Please join us and bring your friends and family!
One tell-tale sign that should make every consumer suspicious is when something is offered “for free.” These free offer scams are often associated with Medicare. The program spends around $6 billion a year on medical devices, and a market this big draws scammers. In a medical equipment scam, someone reaches out with an offer of a “free” brace, wheelchair or other device. All they need is your Medicare number. Once they have it, scammers can use it to bill the government for devices and services that aren’t needed.
The Fraud Watch Network Helpline is inundated with calls about scams involving investing in start-ups. Scammers make up elaborate details about hot investment opportunities, or may try to sell you a vague or nonexistent product. As they pressure you to invest, they flaunt their wildly accomplished resume, and offer unrealistic promises, including guaranteed high returns. Don’t trust someone’s pitch without doing your research. The promise of guaranteed returns is a big red flag. Find out if the investment product is registered with the SEC or your state securities agency. And if it sounds too good to be true, you can bet it likely is.
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