(April 17, 2019) Catherine Read sits down with Martin Bailey from AARP and Melissa Smarr from the Silver Shield Task Force of Fairfax County, to discuss their upcoming event called Scam Jam to be held on April 27th from 9am-1pm at the Fairfax County Government Center.
The second annual Scam Jam aims to educate the public on how they can protect themselves against scam artists. There will be speakers and workshops, all designed to inform people about different scams that are currently happening here, and all over the world. Bailey notes that 16.7 million people a year are scammed at a cost of $16.8 billion dollars annually. It is a huge problem, and this program is intended to arm people with knowledge so that they are less likely to fall for a scam.
There will be several speakers who will be highlighting current scams that are happening now in Virginia. The Grandparents scam is one of the more common ones, and has been around a long time. A con artist calls up an elderly person and pretends to be a young relative in trouble, needing bail money. It is designed to put the victim in panic mode and scare them into compliance. There are also a variety of phone scams using IRS, Medicare and Social Security (note: these agencies will never call you, they will always send you correspondence in the mail).
One of the key ways to protect an identity is to safeguard your social security number. Bailey points out that much of the demographic information on potential victims is “out there” for the world to see, via everything from the online white pages to social media. But a scammer would need a social security number to open a bank account or credit card. It is very, very important to never give out that number unless it is a wholly legitimate source.
In addition to the speakers, there will be an opportunity to shred old papers with confidential information and safely dispose of unused medication. If you cannot make it out the event, AARP has a variety of resources online that are free to the public. Two of their most popular pieces are the Con Artist Playbook and the Watchdog Alert Handbook, which are free and available online. There are also blog posts and articles that are constantly being updated, as AARP attempts to keep up with the scammers in an ever-changing environment.
Fairfax County Silver Shield Task Force also has a number of valuable resources on their website, including consumer protection information, how to report a scam, handling door-to-door solicitors and much more.