In a telephone room in India, hundreds of impostor scam artists are waiting for your callback.
You may have gotten their message on your cellphone — “The IRS is filing lawsuit against you. To get more information about this case file, please call immediately.”
If you call back, it won’t be to the Internal Revenue Service, but to a telephone boiler room, most likely in India. Calls like these are known as impostor scams. It’s when scam artists pretend to be someone they’re not so they can steal your money.
It’s the most common scam in Hawaii, according to the Federal Trade Commission and the scam that bilks people out of the most money — $328 million stolen in the U.S. last year alone. Other popular impostor frauds include the “grandparents scam” — when someone impersonates a relative or friend and asks you for bail money — and the tech support scam — when you get a phone call or pop-up on your computer telling you to call tech support NOW.
The free “Unmasking the Imposters” workshops and advocacy celebrations will be held June 19-June 22. You don’t have to be an AARP member but you do need to preregister by calling 877-926-8300 or go to aarp.cvent.com/HIfraud2018.
The workshops and advocacy celebrations will be held in:
Wailuku: June 19 from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the King Kamehameha Golf Club.
Honolulu: June 20 from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Manoa Grand Ballroom of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii.
Hilo: June 21st from 9:30 a.m. to noon at The Arc of Hilo
Lihue: June 22nd from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Kauai Community College’s Fine Arts Auditorium.
TIPS TO AVOID 5 SCAMS
The IRS will not contact you by phone about paying back taxes without first sending you a written notice.
Technology companies will not contact you to warn about viruses on your machine. Don’t give out your financial information, and don’t give anyone access to your computer.
The goal of this scam is to play on your fears and get you to act fast. Slow down and check with others to make sure you’re really hearing from a loved one.
Be extra careful when dealing with anyone you’ve met online. Romance scams often start with fake profiles on online dating sites. Be wary of anyone who professes love too quickly, wants to leave the dating site immediately and use personal email or instant messaging to communicate, or anyone who asks for money.
Foreign lottery fraud
You can’t win a lottery you never entered. Plus it’s illegal for a U.S. citizen to participate in a foreign lottery when they are in the U.S.
AARP is actively involved in helping kupuna and their family learn how to protect themselves from becoming victims. We’re bringing fraud expert Doug Shadel to Hawaii this month for free workshops on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island.
Shadel wrote the book, actually several books including “Outsmarting the Scam Artists,” on fraud protection. In 2000, the FBI recognized him with the FBI Directors Award for his work in fighting fraud.
In his research, Shadel has talked to dozens of scam artists and he will share what he’s learned from them about impostor scams and the Dark Web, where personal information is bought and sold on the internet.
“What we’re going to do is unmask those impostors and take you into those boiler rooms,” Shadel said.
Shadel said scam artists try and get you to act emotionally, and not logically. The fraudsters are good at what they do and one of the things that makes people most vulnerable is thinking that you are too smart to fall for their scams.
“The illusion of invulnerability can put people in real danger,” said Shadel. “If you think you’ll never be taken, you’ll likely leave your guard down and not take the steps needed to protect yourself.”
The best way to protect yourself is to stay informed and updated on the latest scams so you can understand what scam artists are trying to do and recognize when something is a fraud.
AARP will also be having its 2018 Advocacy Celebration of recent legislation that help kupuna, including an update on a bill to make credit freezes free for Hawaii residents. We’ll also be talking about our “Be the Difference. Vote.” education campaign. With the upcoming elections, it’s important that people over 50 vote and that issues involving kupuna, caregivers and fraud involving kupuna are top-of-mind for all candidates and elected officials.
Barbara Kim Stanton is the state director for AARP Hawaii, an organization dedicated to empowering people to choose how they live as they age.