AARP in the NC Coastal Region is working to prevent criminals from stealing your hard-earned money and savings. Here are some of the latest scams to be on the lookout for in May and throughout the summer season.
New Twist on Vaccine Scams
Con artists are trying to take advantage of the millions of Americans who have received their COVID vaccines by sending fake surveys asking about their experience. These emails and texts look legitimate and may even include the logos of the vaccine manufacturers, but what they are really looking for is your sensitive personal information.
Three things included in these “surveys” let you know they are a scam. First, they offer a prize for participating. Second, the message says you need to reply “right away.” And third, if you do engage with the “survey” you are asked to provide a credit card or other payment information.
Beware of the “Retail Refund” scam
A burgeoning scam impersonates Amazon or another big retailer, claiming you are owed a refund and that you need to call a number or click a link to get it processed. These paths always lead to a scammer – who will ingratiate himself to you, and then convince you to allow them to remotely access your device. They will “show” you the refund owed (let’s say it’s $100). Then they will convince you to sign into your bank account online so they can “show” you the deposit they are ready to make – only they show you a fake page in which it appears they mistakenly refunded you $10,000, for example. They swear they will be fired if you don’t help recover the mistake, and ultimately seek to convince you to send the money back by purchasing a prepaid debit or gift card for the amount and reading the numbers off the back. You buy $9,900 in gift cards, share the information, and are immediately out $9,900.
Know this – retailers don’t work this way. And anytime you are asked to purchase a gift card – to buy something, to pay an obligation – anything, it’s a scam 100% of the time.
Rental Property Scams
The post-pandemic pent up demand for travel has the summer travel industry booming. But rather than looking to hotels for overnight stays, travelers are increasingly looking at home rentals. While these properties offer privacy and distance from crowds, they could pose threats to consumers’ wallets.
Crooks steal photos and descriptions of properties on real estate websites, then advertise rentals at rock-bottom prices. After a deal is struck — typically by email — renters are asked for payment upfront — often by purchasing a gift card (Google Play is a common one) and sharing the numbers off the back. When they arrive, they discover that the rental doesn't exist, or that the actual owner isn't renting it.
When renting your vacation getaway this summer, book on websites you know and trust and do your homework to verify that the property really exists and is a rental. Watch out for anyone who asks you for payment by anything other than a credit card.
Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.
Visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or call the AARP Fraud Watch Helpline at 1-877-908-3360.
Suzanne LaFollette-Black has been a gerontologist for the past 35+ years. She is the AARP NC Associate State Director of Advocacy and Community Outreach. Suzanne’s career has been in the aging network as a non-profit nursing home administrator, Area Agency on Aging Director, Executive Director of Moore County Department of Aging. Suzanne is originally from Window Rock, Arizona (Navajo Indian reservation). Suzanne has a BS in Sociology and minor in Zoology/ Music from NAU and graduate studies at USC Ethel Andrus Percy Gerontology program and MASA from University of North Texas, Denton, Texas. She served as the NCAOA (NC Association on Aging, Inc.) President from 2018-2020; Rotary; NCIOM Deaf and Hearing committee; Governor’s Highway Safety Executive Committee; and other community organizations.
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