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Scam Jam helps residents spot fraud before it occurs

Every two seconds a con artist steal’s someone’s identity. In the last year alone, Americans lost $18 billion of their hard-earned dollars to fraud, identity theft and scams. What tricks do con artists use to steal your money? How can you outsmart scammers before they strike?

AARP Hawaii and several state agencies leading the fight against fraud will offer a free workshop at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, June 10.

The event is intended to arm Kauai residents against the threat of identity theft, investment fraud, and related scams that rake in billions of dollars across the country each year. In addition to speakers, the event will include fun, interactive resource tables and refreshments.

The event is free and open to the public but registration is required. Call toll-free 1-877-926-8300 or go online, http://aarp.cvent.com/scamjam6-10.

The Scam Jam workshop is co-sponsored by the state Office of the Securities Commissioner, the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii, and the state Department of Attorney General. The event will help adults protect themselves from financial fraud by shining light on the tactics scam artists use to separate people from their money and highlighting some of Hawaii’s top frauds and how to avoid and report them.

“Many residents don’t realize how vulnerable they are to having their financial lives overturned by professional scam artists,” said AARP Hawaii State President Gerry Silva. “With just a few simple pieces of information like a credit card number and a password, they’re able to assume the lives of their victims without us realizing it – until the financial damage is done.”

Indeed, a new statewide survey of Hawaii adults shows that many consumers put themselves at risk of identity theft, investment fraud and other financial scams by ignoring basic prevention measures. The report, Risky Behavior: Assessing the Fraud Risk and Avoidance Among Hawaii Adults 18-plus, suggests the extent to which island residents leave themselves vulnerable to fraud by ignoring time-tested consumer protection tips that help thwart identity thieves and investment fraudsters.

The survey also reveals that an alarming number of Hawaii adults say they or someone they know has received coercive phone calls or emails from con artists posing as a government, company, or lottery representatives. As scam artists go digital and engage in increasingly sophisticated means to defraud the public, the survey is a wake-up call for residents who may be complacent about protecting the security of their personal financial information.

Findings from the survey range from investment behavior to information on low- and high-tech behaviors to discourage identity theft, monitor credit and protect personal information stored online:

Of the one in four (26 percent) residents who have hired a financial professional or investment adviser, over half (57 percent) said they did not check the background of the professional to see if they were registered with a securities regulator.

Almost one-third (31 percent) of residents said they received notification of a security breach at an organization with which they’ve done business in the past year. When asked what action they took as a result of the notification, one in five (19 percent) said they did nothing.

Among residents who say they have access to the Internet (89 percent), one-third (34 percent) said they have not set up online access to their bank and credit card accounts.

Nearly four in 10 (43 percent) say they or someone they know has received a phone call or email that says they won a lottery worth millions of dollars but to claim the winnings, a processing fee must be paid.

The telephone survey was developed by AARP and conducted among 700 Hawaii residents age 18-plus from March 20 to April 8. It has a margin of error of plus/minus 3.8 percent. The survey is available for review at www.aarp.org/HIFraudSurvey.

The release of the survey coincides with AARP Hawaii’s launch of the Fraud Watch Network, an education effort aimed at arming residents against the threat of identity theft, investment fraud and related scams that rake in billions of dollars across the country each year. To join the Fraud Watch Network visit www.aarp.org/FraudWatchNetwork.

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AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with nearly 150,000 members in Hawaii. AARP helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse.

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