Guarding against the surge in consumer scams: AARP Arkansas shares expert advice to foil fraudsters
Consumer scams are on the rise, especially online, and AARP Arkansas is warning residents with tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud or identity theft.
In the latest AARP survey of 1,000 adults, about half said they believe older people are victimized by scams more often than younger ones.
Seth Boffeli, senior fraud adviser for AARP Arkansas, said those who steal identities through mail or email often use the information to get credit cards and set up bank accounts. He added the spike began during the pandemic when criminals were looking for ways to get Paycheck Protection Program loans and tap into other sources of government money.
"When you look at the data, 18% of all fraud complaints from Arkansas last year had to do with identity theft," Boffeli reported. "It doesn't surprise me because identity theft is the number one category; and then within the different types of identity theft, credit card fraud makes up about 40% of all identity-theft complaints in Arkansas."
Boffeli recommended setting up credit monitoring, which can alert you if a new account has been opened in your name. He added the three credit bureaus offer people a free credit report yearly, and it is worth reading, to make sure there are no accounts for which you did not apply. He also suggested placing a credit freeze on your report with each of the three major credit bureaus.
Boffeli acknowledged people are often overwhelmed when they find out they have been scammed, but it is important to report it to law enforcement. The AARP Fraud Watch Network also takes reports and can give advice on what to look out for concerning scams and fraud.
"Last year in Arkansas, $34.6 million was reported lost to fraud, but that's only the people who took the time to actually report it," Boffeli stressed. "We know that a majority of the folks that are victimized don't, because it's embarrassing to them. They feel somehow that it was their fault."
The Fraud Watch Network helpline, at 877-908-3360, is a free resource for anyone in need of information or assistance. AARP Arkansas also hosts periodic shredding events in the spring and fall of each year, where people can bring confidential documents to be disposed of safely.