Summer scams on the rise: Be wary of door-to-door sales scams

Editor Special to Devils Lake Journal

NORTH DAKOTA – Summer is officially here which means door-to-door sales crews are too. But buyer beware, what they’re selling isn’t always legit.

Be cautious anytime a stranger comes knocking, especially if the visitor is trying to sell you goods or services. Be wary of contractors who say they stopped by because they just happened to be in the neighborhood. Be on guard for high pressure tactics designed to pressure you to make a quick decision or requests for payment upfront. Your best bet is to proactively seek out the services you need. Remember, it’s always okay to explain you don’t do business at your front door (or to not answer when strangers knock).

Social media is scammer summer hotspot

One question that everyone wants to know when it comes to scams and fraud is where is the greatest risk? When people are bombarded by criminals on email, over the phone, text and online it’s hard to know where to focus. And while it’s important to take every scam attempt seriously, consumers should realize that they are particularly susceptible on social media.

According to the Federal Trade Commission 25% of successful scams last year originated on a social media platform. In 2017 consumers lost $42 million to social media scams. Last year that total was $770 million – an 18-fold increase. Here are three warning signs of social media scams.

1.      Friend requests from people you don’t know. Think of your parents when surfing the web and “don’t talk to strangers.”

2.      Celebrities who want to connect with you. Scammers clone celebrity profiles and send personal messages offering investment opportunities or a chance to meet in person. This is a very successful criminal tactic so just remember, celebrities don’t really want to be your online friend.

3.      Anyone offering investment opportunities. Cryptocurrency scams are exploding, and they typically start when an online “friend” offers up an investment opportunity. Anytime someone you met online says “investment” or “crypto” it’s time to walk away.

Veterans 40% more likely to lose money to scams

One out of every three American veterans has had a scammer try and steal their benefits. This statistic highlights how veterans, active-duty service members and their families are nearly 40% more likely to lose money to scams and fraud. To help combat this AARP recently launched an online resource center focused on veterans-related scams.

Two common schemes to steal from veterans are pension poaching and medical device scams. Shady investment advisors often target veterans with promises to “maximize” their pension benefit or offer to buy out their benefits. These offers often require personal information or up-front payments and rarely deliver on what is promised. Similar to the pension scams, health care offers of low-cost or free medical devices to disabled vets often require sharing their personal VA information only to find out that the device never arrives.

To find out more about scams targeting veterans and how to protect yourself from them visit aarp.org/VetsFraudCenter.

Fake rental schemes on the rise

Renting a home or apartment is a big expense but it could be an even bigger one if the rental is a scam. Criminals copy legitimate listings and look for easy cash by collecting the first month’s rent, deposit, and application fees and then bolt before handing over the keys. Numerous versions of rental frauds abound – some are bait-and-switch while others will attempt to rent out properties that are already leased or otherwise unavailable.

These fake rental schemes happen every year and would-be renters are losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars. When renting a place, watch out for scammers who ask you to sign before seeing anything or request payment via wire transfer, peer to peer apps or cash. Do your research on the property and owner and read agreements carefully.

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 and speak to trained staff or volunteers for help with a fraud encounter.