Data breaches. Online scams. Identity theft. It's enough to make you want to log off for good...but you don't have to! We found three women who weathered their own digital security storms and asked them to share what they learned from their experiences. Our goal? To empower you to stay vigilant and avoid falling prey to these all-too-common scams.
“My dream job became a nightmare.”
Kate Barber, 33, thought she’d found the perfect gig on a caregiving website as a nanny for a widower’s son. After a thorough interview process via email, she got a job offer so great she put in her two weeks’ notice at her retail job. She planned to meet the family in person after they relocated to her city.
But the next week, she got a frantic series of texts: The son’s wheelchair had been shipped early, and it was being sent to her address. The father asked her to front the payment and assured her that he was overnighting a $3,500 check to reimburse her. When Kate refused to cover the cost and he became increasingly angry, it hit her: This guy was being a jerk because he was trying to scam her. She cut off contact and called the police.
Thankfully, despite a little embarrassment, she was able to get her former job back.
THE TAKEAWAY: Consider it a red flag if someone wants you to pay for something for them while “the check’s in the mail.” Also be suspicious if someone requests that you take your interactions off an official platform or if they can never talk on the phone or be present on a video call.
“I fell for an online scammer.”
Bess Willis, 76, had recently lost her husband and was feeling lonely when she got a friend request from a handsome civil engineer. His interest in her — while random — was flattering, and as they got to know each other over messages and phone calls, she felt like maybe she was ready for a relationship again.
About seven months in, he told her he’d run into red tape related to overseas construction costs and asked her to cash a check for $1,200, then wire the money to another account. It was a strange request, but Bess agreed. Her bank called to notify her that the check was bogus. That was when she realized she’d been scammed.
Depressed and angry, Bess joined scam-fighting groups on Facebook, started reporting accounts and became an admin and mentor to other romance-scam survivors. “It took me a good year to get over this,” she says, “but it was good therapy for me to actually talk to other victims and try to encourage them to put the past behind them and not feel embarrassed.”
THE TAKEAWAY: Go private on social media, and never accept friend requests from people you don’t know. Bess found Scam Stoppers on Facebook very helpful.
“Someone opened a shop in my name.”
The first package that D.*, 67, received had a rubber snake in it — and a return slip for an eBay order from a seller with her name and address. But she hadn’t opened an eBay seller account.
She looked up the user name on eBay to discover that someone had opened a seller account posing as her nearly a year earlier. She reported this to eBay, but the account stayed up and went on to sell nearly 4,000 items. In one week alone, D. got 11 returned packages. Seven months later, eBay says that the account has been suspended and its identity theft team is looking into it.
Having connected with the AARP Fraud Watch helpline and the FBI in her quest to stop this, D. recommends that anyone in a similar situation keep written documentation and use every available resource.
THE TAKEAWAY: If you discover that your name and address are being used as part of a scam, get professional help from fraud experts and law enforcement — and document everything.
*Name withheld for privacy.
RESOURCES FOR RECOVERY
If you or a loved one has been scammed, spread the word and get the support you deserve.
- Notify authorities: File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov or your closest FBI field office.
- Empower investigators: Report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission at reportfraud.ftc.gov.
- Get judgment-free advice and join a support group: Call AARP’s Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360.