AARP: Untrustworthy, but useful when confronting scams

What’s truly ironic about AARP is all the information they offer, for free to anybody, about how to scam-proof your life! Amazing, isn’t it? But why not?

Senior citizens need to be aware of the increasing variety of scams and frauds that target retirees. (Via Wikipedia entry on carding frauds, free image via GNU 1.2 license)

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2017 – As Boomer members of AARP, my husband and I currently belong to the largest single population group in the history of the world. According to PEW Research, 10,000 of us turned 65 on January 1, 2011, and 10,000 more will turned 65 every day for the next 19 years.

We didn’t go brain dead or bonkers on our 65th birthdays. So why are gypsies, tramps, and thieves showing up nearly every single day to try to rip us off via email, phone, snail mail, and sometimes even in person? Sure, bad guys were always lurking about when we were younger, of course. But they were rare in number when compared to the bait balls of scammers that court us now.

Why? Because ageism. Because MOAR. And because they’re stupid. Read my lips, scammers, criminals and thieves: We may be old, but we’re not prey. Here’s why.

  • We were ripped off when we young and dealt with it.
  • We know what poor feels like; we’re not interested.
  • We’re Internet-savvy and covert about how.
  • We know how to report you and to whom.
  • We know the rules. For example, we know that the Feds NEVER send emails or make phone calls about taxes. You can take that to the bank.
  • We learn fast and stay current. We keep our ears open and our wallets shut.
  • We grew up with Superman, not Ma and Pa Kent.

AARP: Follow the Money

Again, we’re careful about whom we trust. We don’t even trust AARP, that giant, ubiquitous, endlessly self-promoting nonprofit that allegedly exists to help retired and about to retire Americans.

AARP’s slick monthly magazine is an embarrassingly cringe-worthy Hollywood celebrity suck-up rag. Their top executives are criminally overcompensated and the organization itself is effectively a megalithic, monolithic insurance company that makes billions of dollars off its members.

If you’re an accountant, look at the Form 990s AARP has filed with the IRS over the past few years and you’ll see what we mean.

If you’re not up for that, read Behind the Veil: The AARP America Doesn’t Know, a well-written, carefully researched report issued by the House Ways and Means Committee. To get it, go here and click on the hypodermic needle with the $100 bill inside.

Free Scam-Guard Stuff from AARP

But surprise! AARP isn’t entirely bad. You can join AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, get free books, use a scam-tracking map, and stay current on the latest scams without paying a dime. For some items, you have to register, but you don’t have to actually join the organization, and you don’t even have to be over 50.

If you’re willing to register, AARP’s Fraud Watch Network will send you scam alert newsletters with prevention tips gleaned from con artist and law enforcement interviews and will give you access to resources from experts and ordinary citizens. You can also download the free e-book, The Con Artist’s Playbook.

If you don’t want to register, you can still take scam-awareness quizzes and read articles on safe shopping and banking, password heists, identity theft, social media phishing, security freezes, and even ransomware. The Watchdog Alert Handbook and Who to Call are good references and are completely free.

You can look at and retrieve info from the Scam-Tracking Map, although you’ll have to hand over your personal information, which is the same as registering, if you want to report a scam. There’s a Fraud Watch Helpline you can call to “share your story and receive assistance”—although I presume that, too, will put you into AARP’s massive (and frequently used) paper and e-mail contact list.

AARP: A Charity in Business to Make Tons of Money

Meanwhile, AARP really, really, really wants you to join. They spent a lot of money to help you say “yes” while you’re on their website learning to protect yourself against fraud. But know what you’re getting into. Giving them your name (and your dollars) means giving them permission to sell you whatever they’re currently peddling.

AARP is big, and, as an organization, it possesses well-funded corporate persuasion and closing skills. In fact, AARP may be the elephant in your living room—a white elephant. In the words of an old song, “You take what you need and leave the rest, but they should never have taken the very best.” We’re not whistling Dixie here.

As always, even when it comes to AARP, it’s still caveat emptor: Let the buyer beware.

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