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In-depth: Top scams that are targeted against the Black community; how to avoid falling victim

41% of African Americans say they were targeted by a scam
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Posted at 3:53 PM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 16:57:53-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Many of us have been the target of a scam before. Maybe you received a robocall that sounded suspicious, or someone asking you to load money onto a gift card and send it to them. Scammers around the world are learning how to gain your trust in order to take what you have.

We are more connected than we’ve ever been in human history. From phones to the worldwide web, getting in contact with somebody is fairly easy, but that also means that we are all more susceptible to scams.

AARP found that 41% of Black adults have been targeted by scammers. People of other racial and ethnic backgrounds are also targeted at about the same percentage rate, but this is the first time AARP has studied in detail the types of scams that target the Black community. They found that 21% of African Americans who were targets of a scam lost money and 60% of them reported that they lost money more than once.

Tiffany Jackson says she’s been targeted by a scammer before. It all started when she inquired about a small business loan online. Eventually, she and the person, who she thought was legitimate, started communicating by phone.

“So, then, we started going back-and-forth through the text messages and he was like, ‘oh, you’re approved for $10,000.’ And I was like, ‘how can I be approved if you haven’t even pulled my credit.’”

The scammer told Tiffany pulling her credit wouldn’t be necessary due to the pandemic and he proceeded to ask her for her banking information in order to send her money.

“So, I said my username. He said my username and my password. That’s when I got a little curious because I’m like, ‘you need access to my entire online banking just to do a transaction of $10,000?’”

Feeling funny about the situation, Tiffany decided to stop communicating with the guy. What happened to Tiffany has happened to millions of African Americans, especially senior citizens.

“A lot of the scams play upon the vulnerabilities and the trust. So, they’ll use whatever they have to use. Including, they’ll tell somebody that, you know, ‘I’m a Baptist. You’re a Baptist. You go to my church.’ That may play into some of the African American community,” said Jay Todras with Seniors vs. Crime.

“I haven’t seen her since, but they go to the church right in the neighborhood," said Willie Jackson.

Willie almost fell for a scam by someone he trusted: a former classmate. He says that classmate was working with another scammer, promising him tens of thousands of dollars if he invested in real estate with them.

“And he said, ‘I need you to go to CVS and get this card.’ I said, ‘what’s this card pertaining to?’ [he said] ‘In order to make your first $80,000 to $100,000, you got to invest yours first.’”

The expected investment was $10,000. Willie says that sounded weird to him, so he asked to see a contract or at least a meeting in person. When they denied him that, he knew to steer clear.

“In the Black community, there are even more government imposter scams. So, those that are calling up saying that they’re from the IRS or that they’re from Social Security and asking for personal information. We’re also seeing lottery scams or work-from-home scams, as well as more romance and dating online scams as well,” said Shani Hosten, AARP’s Vice President of African American outreach.

So, here’s how to protect yourself:

  • Add your phone number to the national and state Do Not Call list. This won’t prevent scammers from contacting you, but it’ll make it easier to identify them.
  • Make sure your passwords are different across all of your accounts. More than half of Black adults report using the same or a similar password.
  • Screen your calls. If you’re not familiar with the number that’s calling you, don’t pick up. If they really want to speak with you, they’ll leave a voicemail.

Here are resources to help protect yourself from scammers:

  • AARP.org/FraudWatchNetwork --- Watch Dog Alert for Scams in your area down to the zip code
  • AARP Scam Helpline: 877-908-3360
  • DoNotCall.gov 1-888-382-1222
  • https://www.fdacs.gov/Consumer-Resources/Florida-Do-Not-Call