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En español | According to a survey by True Link Financial, older Americans are criminally defrauded of .76 billion annually. Subscribe to the AARP Money Newsletter for more on work, retirement, and finances The next scam victim could be you. Abagnale, a long time FBI consultant whose early life as a con artist was portrayed in the film "Catch Me If You Can," equates it with playing roulette. But AARP Foundation's Amy Nofziger, who has degrees in criminology and sociology, cites three additional reasons. "They'll use the same methods legitimate marketing companies do, but for nefarious purposes." 2. "If you've been a victim of a fraud or scam, you're put on a so-called sucker list," Nofziger says.
This includes identity theft and all those crazy scams you hear about but smugly think will never work on you. Here's what to watch out for in the new year and, most important, how to protect yourself. "The lists are bought, sold, traded and stolen among scammers because they're perceived as potential gold mines.
Then simply screen your calls, and don't pick up if the number is unfamiliar. "It's our number one reported fraud right now," says Amy Nofziger with AARP Foundation and Fraud Watch Network, "and I think it'll get more sophisticated." Here's how it works: Someone claiming to be from the IRS either phones or leaves a voice message saying you owe back taxes and threatening that, unless funds are wired immediately, legal action will be taken or you'll be arrested.
(Or they may say you have a refund waiting but need to verify personal info before sending.) "They're very convincing," says Nofziger, "and they often use aggressive language." And let's be honest, beyond the intimidation factor, who doesn't feel guilty about fudging something on a 1040 at some point?
The real IRS opens communications with a taxpayer only via the U. Sometimes for kicks Nofziger actually calls the IRS impostors back.
Ever wonder how scammers get your phone number, address or email? Scammers will usually target the victims with a 'recovery' or 'reload' scam."The IRS doesn't usually have the staffing capacity to pick up on the first ring, but the scammers do." Last spring, in one of the biggest busts of its kind, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged four national cancer charities (the Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, the Children's Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society) with defrauding consumers of 7 million.At the other end of the cancer-scam spectrum, last August a reigning beauty queen (Miss Pennsylvania U. International) was arrested after allegedly claiming she had cancer and swindling tens of thousands of dollars from sympathetic supporters.Plus, scammers are getting more devious: Sometimes "IRS" shows up on caller ID, the con artists supply their "badge numbers" and they know the last four digits of your Social Security number.Your Plan Do not return a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS. If you're ever in doubt about an IRS matter, call the agency directly at 800-829-1040.