Close to 50% of U.S. adults report they have been targeted by money scams perpetuated by impostors, according to findings from a new study from the AARP Fraud Watch Network.

“The Impostors: Stealing Money, Damaging Lives” report found that close to half the country has been contacted by romance scams, grandparent scams and government scams involving imposters who say they’re working for the IRS, Social Security Administration or Census Bureau.

“We’ve learned that scammers are very shrewd and adept at capitalizing on current events,” said Kathy Stokes, AARP’s director of Fraud Prevention Programs, who added she is concerned that Census Bureau scams will be the next big swindle opportunity.

“Most people are expecting to hear soon from the Census Bureau so scammers will use that to their advantage as they aim to deceive people into sharing sensitive information or handing over money,” she said.

AARP findings underscore the thought that many Americans may indeed be vulnerable to a Decennial Census imposter scams:

· A whopping 70% of respondents were incorrect or unsure about whether the Census Bureau would contact them via email.  In reality, invitations to participate in the Census actually will be sent via U.S. mail.

· More than a third (35%) expect or are unsure whether the Census questionnaire will ask for their Social Security number. The Census Bureau says it will never ask for sensitive information such as Social Security number, bank account information or passwords, or request payment of a fee.”
As a heads up to financial advisors who may want to educate their clients and their vulnerable family members, invitations to respond to the Decennial Census will be mailed to U.S. households in March. Responses to the Census questions may be submitted online or via mail or telephone. By May, Census workers will begin visiting or contacting households that have not yet responded.

In reality, government impostor scammers are most likely to initiate contact with their targets via telephone.  The AARP survey found that 88% of adults targeted and/or victimized were first contacted by phone.

Among other findings of the survey:

· Forty-five percent of people age 50 and older have been contacted by a government impostor, as compared to 35% of those ages 18 to 49.

· Two in five U.S. adults use dating websites, apps or online social groups to find potential dates or romantic partners.  Of those, half encountered one of the “red flags” of romance fraud, including requests for money.

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