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At the American Society on Aging annual meeting in San Francisco in late March, I stopped by the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) booth and went through its pamphlets on how older adults can avoid being scammed.

Each pamphlet highlighted a different fraud: investment scams, grandkid scams, romance scams, tech-support scams and business-impersonator scams. Before heading to the conference, I also received an IRS warning about the rise in tax scams this time of year.

Sad to say, odds are most of us will slip at some point, considering we're bombarded with fraudulent online messages, texts and phone scams. The FTC said people lost more than $10 billion to fraud in 2023, up from $3.5 billion in 2020. The loss numbers will rise in future years as artificial intelligence offers new opportunities for fraudsters.

The con on the screen sometimes makes for charming entertainment (think "Ocean's Eleven" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.") Yet losing money to a scammer is awful. You probably know someone who has been a victim. Ask them. If you don't, read the article by the personal finance writer at New York magazine who tells how she was swindled out of $50,000 by fraudsters pretending to be from Amazon, the FTC and the Central Intelligence Agency. Seriously.

It seems incredulous she would fall prey to such an improbable and elaborate scheme, but it happens.

"I still don't believe that what happened to me could happen to anyone, but I'm starting to realize that I'm not uniquely fallible," she wrote (also, good for her for telling her story).

There is no fool-proof formula for avoiding scams, of course. But there are three steps to take that provide a measure of protection.

First, and perhaps most important: Stop. Resist the pressure from scamsters to act immediately. Instead, slow down. Taking a deep breath gives you the time you need to verify the information on your own. The realization that something is deeply wrong usually comes with time and reflection.

The second suggestion is the flip side of the slow-down coin: Reach out to your community of family, extended family, friends, neighbors and colleagues you trust. Check with them before doing anything.

Finally, delete, hang up, or run if someone insists on payment with cryptocurrency, gift cards, wire transfer, payment apps and the like. These payment methods scream "trouble."

For more insight and guidance, check out the websites of the FTC and AARP.

Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor, "Marketplace"; commentator, Minnesota Public Radio.