When Cupid is a Con: Common Scams to Avoid
Fraudsters are always finding new ways to get at your hard-earned dollars. Knowing how to spot and stop scams helps you protect yourself, and your pocket book. Here are a few scams to watch out for, and tips to keep from being a victim from AARP’s Fraud Watch Network.
WHEN CUPID IS A CON
It’s the season of Valentines and love is in the air. But beware, sometimes cupid is a con.
You can spot a con artist by recognizing a few red flags: they might propose chatting offline or profess their feelings for you before getting to know you. They may offer to visit if you can help cover travel costs, then cancel those plans at the last minute.
Many victims don’t see the crime coming because they weren’t looking for love online to begin with – it just happened. That’s a common trick of con artists who are looking for unsuspecting victims. Remember, anytime a love interest or new friend whom you’ve never seen in person asks for money, it’s a scam.
Here are three other scams to look out for in the month on February
The first week of February is Identity Theft Awareness Week. It’s a good time to think about a sobering reality: your personal information has most likely already been stolen. Many entities have our personal information – credit card and bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, and health-related information – and data breaches have exposed it. So, what can we do to protect ourselves after the fact?
Here are three steps to protecting yourself against identity fraud. 1) Place a security freeze on your credit accounts with the three big agencies so no one can open a new credit line in your name; 2) Establish online access to your financial accounts and monitor regularly (you can typically set up text alerts for activity on these accounts); 3) Use unique passwords for every online account; consider purchasing a password manager that creates complex passwords and stores them securely.
Cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Dogecoin are soaring in popularity these days. Indeed, these virtual currencies, which are not regulated, can lead to profit for some investors. But while many consumers are new to crypto, scammers aren’t, and they are finding all sorts of ways to run successful scams.
Here are several schemes: Websites promising huge returns if you invest in crypto with the company. “Celebrities” offering investment opportunities in virtual currency via their social media accounts. Online love interests who either ask for financial help via cryptocurrency or seek to convince you to invest in crypto with them. And more recently, a call from a government agency or business warning that you must pay some alleged debt to avoid a bad outcome (such as arrest due to nonpayment of back taxes, your utilities being cut off, your Social Security number being suspended). In the latter, criminals direct targets to withdraw cash from their bank account and deposit it in a cryptocurrency ATM as a mean of paying the alleged debt.
Cryptocurrency is the wild west of investing and deceiving. Make sure you understand fully the risks associated with this currency before engaging in any way.
JOB SEARCH SCAMS
The workforce has become a seller’s market and millions of people are leaving their job for greener pastures. More money, working from home and more time off are just some of the perks. But if you’re in the market for a career upgrade, make sure that new gig is legitimate before taking the leap.
Criminals flood job search sites with professional looking ads offering the sun and the moon, but there is often a catch.
Work-from-home scams can promise jobs with medical billing, data entry or starting an online business, but they may require paying something up front – which should always raise a red flag. Or they seek sensitive personal information, like your Social Security number, before you are hired.
There are genuine job opportunities out there. The challenge is knowing how to spot the real opportunities in a sea of empty — and costly — promises.
Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.
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.
And make sure to tune into AARP Live on RFD-TV the third Thursday of every month for “Rural America Live – With AARP.”