Column – Useful tips for identyfying and protecting yourself from scams

Published 1:53 pm Friday, May 3, 2024

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The recent cover story of the April 2024 AARP Bulletin featured useful guides or information on how to prevent fraud and scams and keep money safe for (older) Americans. 

There have been many cases here of people who’ve lost hundreds to thousands of dollars or more as a result of scams or fraud. According to AARP data, last year, 2.5 million Americans reported losing about $10 billion in fraud. 

I didn’t need to look for one any further. My wife was a victim once. Her credit card was compromised, and she was charged an amount for something she didn’t order online at all. 

Having learned something from a past free lunch seminar on Identity Theft and Identity Fraud and Scams that my wife and I attended on Nov. 9, 2023, hosted by City of Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Narendra Pleas, we quickly notified our bank. We personally went to our bank, which is a few minutes drive from our house. A bank representative helped us cancel her old card and requested a new one for her after learning what had happened. 

Lessons learned from that experience: We should monitor our credit card use and be cognizant and careful when buying or purchasing something online. We should also take time to research or verify the legitimacy of such a company, especially if it’s unfamiliar and we have never heard of it before. 

Below are a few of the most recent and hottest fast-growing scams that people should pay attention to;

  • Check cooking or check baking, a checking scheme in which someone takes a digital photo of a check and uses software to alter the check. 
  • Voice Printing involves capturing a recording of your voice and using a digital software program to generate a “deepfake” or altered version of your voice. That “deepfake” version of your voice can be used to access your insurance or bank and/or transfer money from your financial institution. 
  •  Celebrity impersonation: Fake celebrity profiles offer fans personal connections, VIP access, investment opportunities, or the chance to support personal charities. Before sending that hard-earned money, do some research online about that celebrity to make sure that person is endorsing or supporting such a charitable organization or product.
  • Multistage grandparent scams: An impostor pretending to be your grandchild in trouble needs instant money for bail, a car repair, etc. Call your grandchild or any of his family members to verify the situation. Don’t just believe such a call until you’ve verified that s/he’s your true grandkid.
  • Delayed-action sweepstakes: Someone contacts you, telling you you’ve won a nonexistent prize. To collect it, you have to provide personal information and/or pay a certain amount upfront. Hang up the phone if you receive such a call, and refrain from giving your personal information.

 Amy Nofziger, director of victim support for the AARP Fraud Watch Network, and Mark Fetterhoff, senior adviser with the network, offer the following tips:

  • Open your iPhone’s contact list and add your family, friends, doctors and other important numbers. Then go into your phone settings for “silence unknown callers.” This will send any caller who isn’t in your contacts list directly to voicemail.
  • Revise the passwords on your financial accounts every few months. 
  • Make sure you are signed out of any financial apps on your phone
  • Be skeptical. 
  • Audit your wallet or purse. 
  • Routinely monitor your credit report. 
  • Check your social media settings to make sure your accounts are set to private. This allows only people you choose to trust to view your pages and contact you.

If you think you have been a victim of a scam, contact local enforcement officials.