At a workshop by Iowa Fraud Fighters, representatives from the Attorney General’s office shared warning signs of the different types of scams that target consumers. There are so many!

Everyone, but especially senior citizens are targeted by pyramid schemes, oil/gas/metal schemes, free dinner or vacation seminars, and promissory notes. Scammers prey on elderly who may not be as computer savvy and fool them into giving permission to allow the scammer to take over their computer and access all its data or they commit affinity group fraud by sending (false) messages to friends saying “I made this great investment, you should, too.” The presenters shared stories about “heartbreak schemes” where the caller knows enough information about loved ones to have you believe they are in trouble and need money now or callers that require a bank account number to deposit a “prize.”

Everyone in the room came with the thought: “Oh, I am smarter than that; I could never be conned,” but their stories and video of those who thought the same thing – yet still lost thousands or more – reinforced the sophisticated ways that “the bad guys” are using technology to make fake circumstances appear real — in person, via email, social media, calls or postal mail.

Their tips: never answer the phone of a number you don’t know; realize that paying by credit card offers more protection than gift cards, debit cards or cash; don’t rely on your Caller ID (scammers spoof the name and phone numbers); double-check all your bank and credit card statements and verify any charity or investment vehicle through the attorney general’s office before you donate. It sounds like common sense, but the only thing common about fraud these days is the frequency with which it happens to smart people.

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