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FRAUD WATCH

Elliot Greenblott | Fraud Watch: Five current scams you need to avoid

Person shopping on cellphone holding credit card

Before providing your credit card number to a company you don't know, Google the name of the company and include "scam" or "rating" in the search. 

Temperatures drop and sunlight wanes. Time to heat things up and throw some light at the scams that are gaining traction. Whether by email, phone, text message, mailing, or even door-to-door, criminals are targeting every age group. Here are some scams currently making the rounds.

Shopping

With supply chain logjams and shipping delays, beware of companies offering to get products quickly and cheaply. Con artists are playing on our emotions and the prospect of not being able to complete your holiday shopping list raises anxiety levels.

The scam can involve an attractive website, personalized email, phone call, or text message from an unknown company promising you in-demand items quickly, easily and possibly discounted or with free shipping. Before you make the purchase, ask yourself a simple question — how can an unknown company outmaneuver Amazon, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and other major retailers? The answer is simple — they can’t.

Check out the company before providing your credit card number. A possible sign of a scam can be simply finding out when the company was established. Begin with a simple Google search of the name and include the word “scam” or “rating” in the search line.

No computer, contact the Better Business Bureau 508-652-4800, or bbb.org/us/ma, which monitors most of New England. If this turns out to be a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov.

High school, college students

It’s time to fill out financial aid applications for 2022-23. FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is generally the form that needs to be submitted. Beware of scammers. You may be contacted by someone offering help to get additional aid or a faster decision. Often, they will also charge a fee for completing or filing the application.

FAFSA filings are free and the awarding of financial aid is determined by academics and family income. Never pay someone else to complete and file the form. Completion with false information could result in fines or jail time for you. FAFSA forms carry personal information including family income, assets, Social Security numbers. Providing data to a scammer puts you in extreme danger. If you need assistance, use the website studentaid.gov or ask an adviser at your school.

Who's who

Companies are mailing announcements noting selection for inclusion in Who’s Who directories (I happen to be a recipient of both a letter and phone call). Some of these solicitations are legitimate but others are not. Recognition and flattery compel some people to respond. For others, inclusion is viewed as an opportunity to promote oneself in a job search or school application.

Regardless the reason, keep in mind that you are providing a stranger with details of your education, employment, interests, activities, contact information and possibly much more. Before responding, conduct basic research to determine the legitimacy of the offer. This can be done once again by contacting the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org/us/ma or 508-652-4800.

If you are nominated and respond, you may be asked to purchase a copy of the book listing your information. Don’t provide a credit card number unless you want to purchase the directory. Some directories can cost over $500 a copy.

Protection and savings

Are you carrying a credit card balance with a high interest rate? Is your car warrantee expiring? These are two of the current barrage of telephone scams that likely come as robocalls.

Regardless of the message, hang up. If you need what is offered, use a reputable service such as Consumer Reports to research what is available.

Time to winterize

Beware of door-to-door, unsolicited offers to winterize your home. Scams offering to winterize at a deep discount are reported throughout New England according to the FBI and law enforcement. If you are approached, ask for credentials: proof of insurance and local references.

Contact local law enforcement and ask if they are aware of scams in the area. Never pay for promised work in advance. Report it to local law enforcement if it turns out to be a scam

Questions, concerns? Contact me, egreenblott@aarp.org.

Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and coordinator of the AARP Vermont Fraud Watch Network. He hosts a CATV program, Mr. Scammer, distributed by GNAT-TV in Sunderland, Vt., www.gnat-tv.org.

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