AARP's five top tips for avoiding scams: Internet Scambusters #583
Although strictly regarded as an organization representing older people, the American Association of Retired Persons wants to appeal to all age groups with its new Fraud Watch Network campaign.
The organization says everyone can access its extensive anti-scam resources, use its tips and download related publications.
Those publications include a guide on how the criminal mind works to make users aware of when they're being "softened up" by a crook as a prelude to a scam, as we explain in this week's issue.
Now, here we go...
AARP Launches Fraud Watch Network For All
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has stepped up the fight against scammers with a new campaign -- the Fraud Watch Network -- that goes beyond the organization's traditional audience of people over 50 years old.
AARP has long been a powerful Scambusters ally, contributing to and featuring in many of our issues over the years.
As we've reported, elder fraud is one of the most common and costly forms of con-trick crime, but ultimately, every age segment of the population is vulnerable, so AARP has directed its new campaign at the entire population.
"We're inviting anyone, of any age, to access our website and network of resources free of charge," it says.
So you don't have to be an AARP member or age 50-plus to benefit from AARP's anti-scam tips and resources.
As part of the campaign, the organization has published what it calls The Con Artist's Playbook, which aims to expose the psychology behind ID theft, fraud and scams, an insight into the criminal mind.
The idea is that by understanding how scammers think, the public can be better prepared to protect themselves.
Straight From the Scammers
The book is actually quite a brief document but it's distilled from hundreds of fraud tapes and hours of interviews with both crooks and their victims.
The key finding is the way that scammers try to lower the guard of their victims. They call it "getting them under the ether."
"Ether is a heightened emotional state that makes it hard to think clearly and make rational decisions," says the book.
"Think about the first time you fell in love. Were you thinking clearly? Probably not. To induce ether, the con artist will ask you questions that trigger an emotional response.
"For instance, they might ask you about your relationship with your granddaughter or whether you have concerns about running out of money.
"Once they find something you care about that triggers emotions, they will
'throttle up' on that trigger and get you to focus on it until you are in a heightened emotional state."
It makes sense therefore that you should never make a buying decision while you're "under the ether."
Be sure to download the full Con Artist's Playbook, loaded with useful insights into the workings of the criminal mind and their favorite techniques.
Five Key Tips
At the campaign launch, AARP also highlighted five key anti-scam tips, which will be familiar to regular Scambusters readers.
1. Avoiding easily guessable PIN numbers and passwords. For more help on this, check out these earlier Scambusters reports:
Get Tough With Computer Passwords and Secret Questions
Slider Theft, Unsafe PINs and Advance Fee Scams
2. Being wary of messages that claim to be from your bank or another organization asking you to confirm account details or provide other confidential information.
3. Stopping pre-approved credit card notifications that could be stolen by a crook and used for ID theft.
Do this by calling 1-888-5-OPT-OUT or by visiting OptOutPrescreen.com.
4. Refusing to give personal information to telesales callers and signing up for the Do Not Call Registry.
Learn more about this from our earlier issue, How to Put a Stop to Telemarketing Harassment.
5. Double-checking references from doorstep callers, selling products or offering home repairs.
"Verify that businesses and others who contact you are who they claim to be before you provide any personal information," advises AARP.
More Scam-Fighting Tools
The Fraud Watch Network offers several other tools to help you protect not just yourself but also friends and family.
* Real stories from past scam victims, scammers and security specialists.
* Watchdog alerts, including prevention tips and a guide to common scams.
* A resource library including links to an anti-fraud blog and downloadable guides.
* A section on investment fraud, including a quiz to test your knowledge and susceptibility.
* A list of the most common scams, including another quiz to see if you can recognize a scam from a genuine situation.
* A Help section and a list of contacts.
You can sign up to join the network and receive regular alerts at the AARP's Protect Yourself from Con Artists' Latest Tricks page.
Of course, reading and subscribing to Scambusters, which is also free service, can also alert you to the latest scam tricks and provide you with useful tips on how to beat the crooks.
The fact is that in the ongoing battle against scammers you can never have enough allies and we welcome this latest AARP initiative.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!