Contact: Jim Flaherty, AARP Wisconsin, 608-286-6308

Madison, Wisconsin – With scams and fraud schemes proliferating on social media, AARP Wisconsin has teamed with the AARP Fraud Watch Network for a campaign to educate Wisconsinites about social media hazards and provide information about how they can protect themselves.

“Scammers have been using email and telephone calls to target unsuspecting victims for years. Now, with today’s boom in social media use, the con artists are just as likely to use Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to execute their insidious scams to steal people’s money and identities,” said AARP Fraud Watch Network Ambassador Frank Abagnale. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 70% of Americans regularly use social media.

The new campaign includes advertising, online videos and a new website, The effort warns consumers about specific social media scams, such as the coupon scam and the genealogy scam:

  • Fraudsters execute the coupon scam by distributing advertisements featuring too-good-to-be-true deals on hot items. The real goal is to charge your credit card for phony goods or products you never receive, or to collect your personal information for identity theft.
  • The genealogy scam capitalizes on the current popularity of ancestry research. Scammers set up a legitimate-looking website and social media account – often mimicking the name of an authentic genealogy site by altering a character or two of the name. Victims are duped into providing their credit card information, Social Security numbers and other personal information to the identity thieves.

“We’re also hearing reports of contest scams, fake gift card schemes, offers of free live-streamed video and employment scams,” said Jeannie Tucker, who leads AARP Wisconsin’s fraud prevention efforts. “Con artists are relentless, and it seems like there is a new social media scam on a daily basis.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Wisconsin residents registered 31,975 fraud complaints during 2016. Abagnale provides the following tips to avoid identity theft via social media:

  • Never post personal information, including your Social Security number –  not even the last four digits – birthday, place of birth, home address, phone numbers, or personal account information.
  • Avoid posting a front-facing picture of your full face on social media sites. A con artist can copy the image and use it to create a photo ID that can be used to steal your identity.
  • Set the privacy options for each of your social media accounts to restrict your information so it can only be viewed by people you select. Check your privacy settings regularly.
  • Don’t log in to your social media accounts via a public wireless network. A 2016 survey by the AARP Fraud Watch Network found that more than 70% of the respondents have accessed their email, Facebook and other social media accounts via free public Wi-Fi.

Abagnale, who was named AARP Fraud Watch Ambassador in 2015, has been associated with the FBI for more than four decades, and has consulted with hundreds of financial institutions, corporations and government agencies around the world. His story was told in his best-selling book, Catch Me if You Can, and in the 2002 movie of the same name, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network was launched in 2013 as a free resource for people of all ages. The website provides information about fraud and scams, prevention tips from experts, an interactive scam-tracking map, fun educational quizzes, and video presentations. Users may sign up for “Watchdog Alert” emails that deliver breaking scam information, or call a free helpline at 877-908-3360 to speak with volunteers trained in fraud counseling.

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