April Fools’ Day may have come and gone, but don’t let April fool you into thinking that you can’t be a victim of fraud.

This is especially important as we approach tax season, when scammers are likely to not only target seniors but also other vulnerable groups, looking at you GenX, with tax fraud-related schemes.

Fraudsters can take many forms, but they all have one goal: to steal your money. Here are some of the most common types of fraud and how to protect yourself from them this tax season and beyond.

Here are a few of the most common scams to be on the lookout for in the month of April.

Reported Scams Grow by $2 Billion

According to the Federal Trade Commission, while the total reported scams dropped by 1 million in 2022, the amount of money lost to scams and fraud grew by $2 billion, reaching a whopping $8.8 billion. This surge was fueled by a dramatic increase in investment schemes and scams asking for cryptocurrency as a form of payment.


Cryptocurrency Scams

Last year, investment scams were the single biggest type of scam, with victims losing $3.8 billion. This reflects a growth in cryptocurrency-related losses, which doubled from 2021 levels. Many scammers started seeking cryptocurrency as a form of payment due to the ease of accessing crypto ATMs in retail locations. AARP advises people to be wary of any “can’t miss” investment opportunities, especially if they come from the internet or new contacts they’ve never met in person.

round silver and gold coins
Photo by David McBee on Pexels.com

IRS Impostor Scams

Consumers reported losing $2.6 billion to impostor scams in 2022, according to the Federal Trade Commission. One of the longest running impostor scams involves the IRS, and tax time provides a good opportunity to sound the alarm and raise awareness.

Most IRS impostor scams begin as a robocall and a message either directing you to press a number on your keypad to talk with a live agent or to call back the number provided. The messages can be negative (you owe back taxes) or positive (you’re receiving a refund). Either way, there is an urgent request to call a number right away or click a link in a text message or email.

AARP reminds people that the IRS does not initiate contact via text or email. If you get a call claiming to be from the IRS, hang up – or better yet, don’t pick up the call. If you think you may owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or visit irs.gov/balancedue.

Student Loan Relief Scams

Student loan forgiveness has been the focus of recent headlines, which has given scammers an in-road for student-loan-related fraud. AARP advises people to be wary of any unsolicited contacts from “debt relief experts” offering access to instant, easy-to-access loan forgiveness options or mentioning the “Biden Plan.” They often ask for upfront payment or for personal information such as your Social Security number or your FSA ID (the username and password on your loan account). Upfront fees are a surefire sign of fraud.

Staying Safe Online

According to new data from the Federal Trade Commission, the most successful path for scammers to reach victims in 2022 was the internet. About one fourth of fraud reports indicate the contact method was an online source (website, app, pop-up add or social media), and in 6 out of 10 cases, the victim lost money.

Criminals make it very hard to tell the difference between a legitimate website and a fake one. AARP advises people not to click on links from emails or text messages. Instead, they should type the web address into their browser window themselves. People should also be dubious of online ads that seem too good to be true.

The phone isn’t much safer either. The FTC found that victims of phone and text scams lose more money on average than those starting on the internet.

The best way to avoid scams is to be vigilant. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. If someone asks you for money or personal information in order to get something back, don’t do it. Don’t give out your personal information unless you are sure of what they will use it for and how they will keep it safe.

If you’ve been a victim of fraud visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork  or call the AARP Fraud Watch Helpline at 1-877-908-3360 to report the fraud. You can also file a complaint with the state Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s office at 517-335-7632, toll free 1-877-765-8388, or online, and/or the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.

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