The AARP Fraud Watch Network is a free resource for all. Learn how to proactively spot scams or get guidance if you’ve been targeted. Visit www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or call our dedicated helpline to speak to a fraud specialist at 1-877-908-3360.
Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.
Here’s our latest roundup of current scams that are especially active right now.
Medicare Enrollment Scams
It’s open enrollment season, which also means it’s Medicare fraud season. Eligible beneficiaries have until December 7 to shop for the best deal for their health care dollar. Unfortunately, some of the deals offered won’t be deals at all.
Medicare scams spike during open enrollment season, with scammers posing as insurance providers offering free gifts or limited time offers. These scams are all designed to capture information that can be used to bill Medicare fraudulently.
Be suspicious of anyone who calls, emails or visits you promoting a Medicare plan. Legitimate health plans can only contact you if you’ve requested information or you have an existing relationship with them. Avoid giving personal information to anyone who calls or visits out of the blue, and always review your Medicare or Explanation of Benefits statement to ensure fraudulent charges aren’t included.
Veterans, active duty and military families are nearly 40% more likely than the general population to lose money to scams and fraud. According, to the Federal Trade Commission, reported fraud attacks against our nation’s heroes and their families jumped 69 percent from 2020 to 2021.
The latest scam targeting veterans involves offering help getting benefits (for a fee) from the “Camp Lejeune Settlement.” The Camp Lejeune Justice Act, part of the PACT Act that became law in August, allows vets and their survivors to pursue compensation if they developed serious illnesses from water contamination at Camp Lejeune. You don’t need to pay someone to help you receive benefits. This also applies to fee-based offers to maximize your benefits, overhaul your investments to be eligible for Aid and Attendance benefits, or for obtaining or updating records with the VA.
Learn more about PACT Act benefits by visiting va.gov/PACT or calling the VA’s toll-free number at 1-800-698-2411.
Tech Support Scams
Computer viruses are scary. Tech support scammers exploit that fear, claiming your computer or mobile device is dangerously ill and needs an immediate, costly cure. These scams start with an unsolicited phone call or a pop-up warning on your device, claiming to be from Microsoft, Norton, or other related company, warning of grave problems. The goal is to persuade you to allow them to remotely connect with your device and then convince you they find something terrible. What they are really doing could involve installing malware to harvest personal information and logins or convincing you to pay for expensive repair and protection (fake and fake).
Bottom line, the urgent phone call or popup message is a sham. Don’t answer (or hang up immediately if you do), and to rid your screen of the message (which often accompanies a screeching alarm), exit out of your browser or do a hard shut down. Keep your operating systems and security software up-to-date to keep real viruses and malware out.
Online Holiday Shopping Scams
The holiday deals have already begun, but buyer beware – not all of those great deals you see online are legit. Because if the online shopping season has started it means that online scam season has officially begun too.
Here are the two simple steps you can take to stay a step ahead of the online grinch this holiday shopping season.
Type – don’t click. The safest place to shop online is with retailers you trust by using their app or typing their web address into your browser rather than clicking on a link from a text, email or online ad. Also, know that unbelievable deal a social media contact messages you about is truly not to be believed. Fraud criminals are expert at hacking social media accounts and one of the first things they do is send out fake offers to a victim’s friends and family.
Mail Theft Leads to Check Fraud
Scams aren’t always high tech – some of the most common are about as old fashioned as they come. In 2021 there were 33,000 reports of incidents involving mail carrier robberies and mail theft, up from 24,000 in 2019, according to the US Postal Inspectors (USPIS). What were the thieves looking for? Personal checks that can be washed and re-written to anyone for any amount.
The simplest way for criminals to find mail to steal is to look for mailboxes with a raised flag, which often contain bill payments with personal checks included. Another way is for criminals to steal a master key that opens the blue boxes from a postal worker. These “arrow keys” sell for between $5,000 and $10,000 on the black market. Once they have a personal check, thieves can “wash” the ink off with household chemicals and fill it out to a new recipient for whatever amount they wish.
To protect yourself, deposit any mail containing checks, cash or sensitive personal information in collection boxes as close to the indicated pickup time as possible — or better yet – bring them inside the post office for mailing.