Confession: I’ve been scammed.
Years ago, during a particularly chaotic time in my life, I got a call from a woman who said she was from my electric company. She was very sorry, but last month’s bill was so overdue my power would be cut off by the next day unless I paid by phone now. For the record, the dollar amount she gave was the same as my monthly bill.
I was sure I’d already paid. She said maybe they hadn’t received it or there was some glitch, but the cutoff process was in motion and they could always refund me. I did not want to deal with losing power. I’d pay now, sort it out later.
You know the rest: My account was fine, she wasn’t from the electric company, and I felt like a sap.
Scammers continue to build a lucrative business, with more than $3.3 billion lost by American consumers to fraud in 2020 — up from $1.8 billion the year before, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Top grifts included online shopping and “impostor” scams like mine.
And forget the stereotype of elderly folks being the biggest target: While 20 percent of those fraud victims were 70 to 79 years old, more than twice as many were 20 to 29.
Scams constantly morph and update. AARP warns that danger can lurk behind using your cellphone to scan a suspicious QR code — those black-and-white squares that can allow you to board a plane or check when the next bus is coming. The fraudulent versions can be as risky as clicking suspicious links or attachments in emails.