The internet is a bit like the Wild West: ever-expanding, rowdy and more than a little dangerous. For seniors, especially during COVID-19’s social isolation, online access to family and shopping was a blessing. But they’re also a frequent target of scammers. Thankfully, Washington’s AARP is looking out for older adults by hosting the informational consumer event Tip-Offs to Rip-Offs on Wednesday, July 28.

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Everyone is welcome to sign up for the AARP’s Tip-Offs to Rip-Off’s consumer education event on Wednesday, July 28. Photo courtesy: AARP Washington

“To help consumers fight back, AARP is joining forces with the Olympia Police Department, the Lewis-Mason-Thurston Area Agency on Aging, the Washington State Senior Citizens’ Lobby, the State Attorney General’s Office, BECU and Nomorobo,” says AARP’s Jason Erskine. The online event takes place from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. “Participants will hear about the latest scams targeting Olympia area residents, including a deep-dive presentation on robocalls and imposter scams which are fast becoming some of most effective and dangerous tactics in the con-artists’ playbook.”

We’ve all experienced the annoyance of robocalls, especially during dinner or evening family time. But these calls are more than simply frustrating. “Robocalls coming into the U.S. have more than doubled in recent years to nearly 50 billion calls a year,” explains Erskine. “To make matters worse, experts estimate that up to half of these calls may be attempts to defraud consumers—and Washington State has been hit hard by this massive increase in unwanted scam calls.”

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The AARP reports that nearly 50 billion robocalls are received annually in the US alone. Learn how to avoid their scams and fraud attempts. Photo courtesy: AARP Washington

Tip-Offs to Rip-Offs is more than just a slideshow. “Through a unique new partnership with the call-blocking service Nomorobo, event attendees on July 28 will hear about the top-five robocall scams currently flooding Olympia area phone lines,” says Erskine. “We’ll also be providing ongoing access to that Top Five list, which we’ll keep updated, so consumers can keep on top of new scams as they emerge. The list will include access to the actual audio of each call so that consumers can hear firsthand what the calls sound like. Our aim is to provide these and other early warning tools, since the better we’re all able to recognize a scam pitch before we’re in the con-artist’s sights, the better we’ll be able to protect ourselves and our money.”

The Senate Special Committee on Aging estimates seniors are scammed out of nearly $3 billion each year. The AARP reports that “According to new statistics from the Federal Trade Commission, Washington consumers lost nearly $69 million to fraud in 2020, more than double the amount lost in 2019.”  With the pandemic still in play, these now include fraud around Zoom calls, vaccination cards, and online shopping as well as more traditional tech support, social security and Medicare scams.

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Speakers will include Officer Kory Pearce of the Olympia Police Department as well as the state director of AARP Washington and CEO of Nomorobo. Photo courtesy: AARP Washington

Speaking at the event will be Aaron Foss, CEO of Nomorobo, Officer Kory Pearce of the Olympia Police Department and Doug Shadel, the state director of AARP Washington. Shadel is himself the lead fraud researcher with AARP’s Fraud Watch Network. He has served as an expert witness in federal criminal fraud trials and on the advisory council for Stanford University’s Financial Fraud Research Center and testified before Congress about the rise of fraud in the United States.

The event also allows time for attendees to ask questions of the presenting fraud experts about issues or worries they may have. Attending is free and open to everyone—you don’t have to be an AARP member—but advance pre-registration is required. Simply register online to reserve a spot.

Most Americans have a working familiarity with technology and the internet. But scammers change up their attacks quickly and ruthlessly so it’s hard to keep up with the barrage of false and misleading requests, calls and emails. To read more about the most current scams, visit AARP’s Fraud Watch Network online. They post ways to look up or report scams in your area, sign up for Watchdog Alerts, and host a Fraud Resource Center of varying types. These include charity scams, investment fraud, free trial scams, ransomware and many others. You can also call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877.908.3360 Monday through Friday.

Scam artists are good at what they do, and unfortunately, we’ll all likely be targeted at some point. Whether buying that lemon of a used car or ordering from an online vendor who suddenly disappears with your money, learning the hard way is disheartening and expensive. If you or someone you love needs a refresher on what to look for, sign up for the Tip-Offs to Rip-Offs consumer education event today. Together we can stay safe.

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