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Latinos and other people of color are increasingly the targets of criminals who use the internet, phone, and text scams to steal money and damage wellbeing.
In fact, 40% of Black and Latino adults have been targeted by online scams and fraud, according to a new survey by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
“Latino adults are most targeted by government impostor scams, utility scams and grandparent scams. For both utility and grandparent scams, Latino adults far outrank other racial groups,” according to Matthew Petrie of the independent market research group BVA BDRC of AARP.
Latinos and A Struggle with Scammers
Sadly, scammers are common in the United States.
The rise of financial fraud in the form of scams is “undeniable,” writes Petrie of AARP.
“Federal data show the highest ever year-over-year rise in fraud reports between 2019 and 2020, and we know that scams are severely under-reported,” Petrie writes. “We also know that when consumers are aware of specific scams, they are far less likely to engage with them, and far less likely still to lose money or sensitive information.”
More and more, scammers are targeting people of color.
“A lot of the Latino community have been victims of financial scams,” Luz M. Garcini, a Salud America! Salud Hero at UT Health San Antonio, told the San Antonio Express-News earlier this year. “They are terrified that they will go in for a service said to be no cost and somehow be stuck with a large bill they cannot afford.”
The new AARP report found that younger Latinos are often the victims of immigration and work-from-home scams. Latinos ages 50 and older are more likely to report being targeted for a government or lottery scam but few other types of scams.
These scams can cost victims thousands. Historically, scammers steal over $3 billion each year.
Moreover, Latino adults are the demographic most targeted by:
- Government impostor scams
- Utility scams
- Grandparent scams
- Work-related scams
- Bogus work-from-home offers
- Fake job postings
- Lottery scams
“Work-related scams — bogus work-from-home offers and fake job postings, as well as lottery scams — rank among the top ten scams targeting this population,” Petrie writes.
Additionally, the report notes that Latino adults suffer physical and emotional health consequences due to experiencing scams.
Other key findings include:
- Most Latino adults are aware of at least one scam
- 2 in 5 five have been targeted for a scam
- 1 in 5 have lost money to a scam
- Latino adults under age 40 are most likely to report being targeted by a scam
- Close 1 in 5 Latinos between ages 18-39 report being targeted by a government or utility scam
- Latino adults who report being a victim of a scam report grandparent, romance, utility and lottery scams most frequently
- Latino adults who are older, less affluent and female are less aware of scams, putting them at higher risk of experiencing a scam
- Latino adults who are men, living in suburban areas, report annual incomes of $50,000 or more, and have at least a college degree are most likely to indicate they lost money to a scam
“Our research shows us scammers are targeting the [communities of color], so it is important to talk with friends and family about the specific scams they may see and how to avoid them,” Shani Hosten, an AARP vice president said in a statement. “Being able to spot a scam can not only help people avoid losing money, but also avoid the emotional toll of a scam.”
What Can You Do to Prevent Scams and Fraud?
AARP authors say teaching those at risk of scams about ways to avoid such hardship is critical.
“Education is key in helping consumers spot and avoid scams. Yet this survey indicates that Latino adults may be underserved by educational efforts about scams and fraud compared to White and other racial groups,” they write.
AARP suggests Latinos take advantage of:
- Call blocking services. These can decrease robocalls from getting through to the user.
- Adding phones to the Do Not Call list. “Just under one third of Latino adults report registering their phone on the federal government’s National Do Not Call Registry…it doesn’t stop scammers, but cutting down on telemarketing calls can make scam calls easier to spot.”
- Create stronger passwords. “Over half of Latino adults report using the same password across accounts and those younger than age 50 report a high incidence of using a same password for every account.”
- Use a password manager. “Fewer than 1 in 5 Latino adults report using a password manager to store and manage their online passwords.”
This is critical as more and more medical scammers try to swindle people out of their personal information and money, especially amid COVID-19.
As we continue the fight against COVID-19, we must ensure the safety of our most vulnerable communities.
That is why Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio is launching the “Juntos, We Can Stop COVID-19” digital communication campaign in English and Spanish to help Latino families take action to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The campaign features culturally relevant, bilingual fact sheets, infographics, and video role model stories—to encourage Latinos to change their public health behaviors.
See and share the #JuntosStopCovid campaign!