Content starts here
AARP AARP States Virginia Scams & Fraud

Scam Jam 2023: Former Attorney Paul Greenwood's Top Ten Tips

Scam Jam 4-23 039.jpg

Paul Greenwood served as San Diego’s deputy district attorney for 22 years, working mostly on caregiver abuse issues. He now serves as a champion against elder abuse.

At the 6th Annual Scam Jam, a joint effort by AARP Virginia and Fairfax County Government’s Silver Shield Task Force, Greenwood shared his top 10 tips for avoiding fraud.

Greenwood prefaced his remarks by saying it’s important to focus on the crime, not the victim. Everyone needs to be part of the solution. Elder abuse, which is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control as a public health crisis, relies on silence, with many people afraid to talk about their experiences.

Tip #1: Choose caregivers with caution. “Never hire through newspaper ads or services like Craigslist,” he said. Conduct background checks and even hire a private detective if necessary.

He also advised letting financial institutions know about caregiver situations so they can be alert to any unusual activity, because dishonest caregivers usually have access to a person’s valuables. Greenwood prosecuted cases where caregivers robbed seniors of all their financial resources.

Tip #2: Lock up all valuables. The most frequently stolen item is jewelry, said Greenwood, so he advises making an inventory and locking up jewelry and other valuables. One of his cases was against a maintenance worker at a senior living facility. When residents had an issue that needed service, the maintenance worker would tell them to leave their rooms while he made the repair. And he’d steal their valuables.

Tip #3: Shred all material with personal information. Greenwood said dumpster divers are notorious for going through trash to find information they can use for identity theft.

Tip #4: Protect your incoming and outgoing mail, because scammers can steal and reuse paper checks. Greenwood recommends using a locked mailbox or a post office box for security. For those who use paper checks, he recommends ordering checks printed with only a first initial and last name, with no address, phone number, or other information. He also recommends picking up checks from a financial institution, rather than having them sent through the mail.

Tip #5: Do a credit search on yourself to look for anomalies, using the major credit companies like Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. If you don’t need credit for a loan or mortgage, Greenwood recommends freezing your credit.

Tip #6: Use Caller ID, but recognize it is not foolproof. It’s best to let calls from unknown numbers go to voice mail, but if you do answer, be prepared to hang up right away if the call seems suspicious. For cell phones, Greenwood recommends using an app such as Robokiller to screen spam calls.

Tip #7: You will never win the foreign lottery. Unfortunately, said Greenwood, some people still fall for these scams. He also recommends being cautious about correspondence that looks like a payoff from a legitimate entity. Check for misspellings or foreign postmarks.

Tip #8: The IRS will never call you. The Internal Revenue Service will only communicate using mailed correspondence. If you get a call, you know it is a scam.

Tip #9: Your grandson will never call you from jail. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to this scam where the caller mimics a grandchild, often using artificial intelligence to mimic the grandchild’s voice more accurately.

Tip #10: Don’t look for love in all the wrong places. Scammers use fake social media accounts to prey upon vulnerable individuals and rob them of their savings. Often, the victim ends up being a “money mule,” or a conduit to illegally pass funds from one entity to another.
A recording of the 2023 Scam Jam is available at

For more information about fraud and how to find help, visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network.

Read other Scam Jam related articles:
How to Protect Yourself from Fraud
Kate's Story

About AARP Virginia
Contact information and more from your state office. Learn what we are doing to champion social change and help you live your best life.