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Spotlighting the Scam Jam and Shred Fest in Woodbridge

Scam Jam Woodbridge group pic.jpg

AARP Virginia has hosted several Scam Jams and Shred Fests in the Northern Virginia area recently. On Oct. 11, the event that shines a light on fraud and scams was held in Woodbridge at the Harbour Grille. Immediately following the half-day event, attendees could shred their documents outside at a shred truck.

The event started with a continental breakfast, as well as exhibitors in an adjacent room. Exhibitors included the FBI, US Postal Inspection Service, Prince William County Police Department, Prince William County Social Services’ Adult Protective Services Unit, and the Center for Combating Elder Financial Abuse. And of course, AARP provided a table with many resources. Additionally, a few representatives from The Links, Inc. Old Dominion (VA) Chapter came as supporters of AARP.

Scam Jam Woodbridge Angela Contee.jpg

Angela Contee, AARP community ambassador, was the hostess and facilitator. She gave opening remarks and welcomed the attendees. Contee also shared the history of AARP and the purpose for the event. The event included a panel of professionals that consisted of representatives from the exhibitors. Each panelist explained the role their organization has in lowering the risk of fraud, especially when it pertains to the older adult community.

The highlight of the event was a message from fraud survivor Kate Kleinert. Paul Greenwood, a former San Diego County deputy district attorney, facilitated a conversation with Kleinert. She gave a detailed account of how she was lured into a relationship with an online scammer due to her loneliness after losing her husband of over 40 years. Today, Kleinert has dedicated her life to fighting against fraud by telling her story and warning others of how she lost over $39, 000.

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Greenwood stated that elder abuse thrives on silence because an older person may be ashamed of the circumstance of how fraud occurred, thus keeping it a secret. He shared 20 tips to reduce the risk of becoming a fraud victim and they are as follows:

1. Use caution in hiring a caregiver. Notify your financial institutions that you have a caregiver because they have access to your bank accounts and other valuables.
2. Keep an inventory of your jewelry in a locked drawer.
3. Shred mail right away when it contains personally identifiable information. A shredder in the home is the best way to avoid someone stealing information.
4. Protect incoming and outgoing mail. Renting a post office box is recommended.
5. Don’t look for love in the wrong places. Scammers seek out their victims in common places like grocery stores, places of worship, casinos, etc. Many scammers use online dating sites.
6. Review your credit report at least two or three times a year. Consider adding a credit freeze for extra protection.
7. Use a caller ID to screen calls. Purchase one if you don’t have one already.
8. Don’t fall for sweepstakes scams. You will never win a foreign lottery. Don’t believe the calls, mail, or e-mails notifying you of your prizes.
9. The IRS will never call you.
10. Don’t send money to anyone who says they are a relative calling you from jail. There’s a prevalent scam stating that grandchildren are in jail and need you to send money to free them. Some scammers are using AI technology.
11. When hiring a contractor, be sure to check the company and make sure it is licensed and bonded. Get at least three estimates before you commit to the job. Get a contract and never pay in full until the entire job is completed.
12. If someone calls and tells you there’s a problem with your computer, please hang up immediately.
13. Watch out for people who want to enter your property. This includes police, military, contractors, FBI, etc. Call the places they are from to verify them or just don’t let them in until you can get a family member or neighbor to assist you.
14. When shopping, always keep your purse with you. Never put it in the cart.
15. Don’t allow a stranger to update your will or trust. Also, don’t let anyone tell you that they can get you a better return on your investment account.
16. Never give to a charity that calls you.
17. Do research before assigning a guardian or conservator.
18. Delete e-mails stating that one of your service plans has expired.
19. Call your local sheriff or police if you suspect fraudulent activity.
20. Report to AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360

After the presentations, several attendees said they received valuable information at the event. Debora of Woodbridge stated that she fell prey to scammers when they requested that she send them gift cards. She sent an Apple gift card for $150 and afterwards realized that she was scammed. She said the panelists helped her understand how to avoid getting entangled with scammers in the future and most importantly what to do and who to call if fraud is suspected.

Carol Savage of The Links, Inc., said she thoroughly enjoyed Kleinert and Greenwood’s presentation. Having heard a survivor’s perspective meant a lot to her.

Many of the attendants said they were enlightened by the information presented and look forward to other events by AARP.

Below is a list of AARP fraud prevention resources that are free and available to anyone.

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