Senior Safe: Senior Fraud-On the Street-On the Phone-At the Door
National Child Safety Council
Don’t be Fooled:
One of the popular ‘weapons of choice’ today is the telephone because it provides telemarketer an easy entrance to the home and detection and prosecution are difficult. Seniors are often targeted because they are naturally trusting and may find it hard to say no to a telemarketer. $40 billion is made every year from telemarketing phone scams.
Telemarketers may work for days or weeks setting up a victim for phone fraud by pretending to be a ‘friend;, even claiming they are in a similar situation. They may use several voices to sound more legitimate. They may use real company and charity names but don’t be fooled. They shouldn’t be confused with reputable organizations.
Telemarketers called ‘list brokers’ sell their lists to each other. Thee lists may include people who have innocently filled out a sweepstakes entry or contest form.
*57% of those victims are senior adults.
*70% of seniors are targeted by telemarketers.
13 Cons & Scams:
*Business Schemes: Mail order. “Work at home” jobs usually cost more than you profit and are often from foreign countries.
*Home Repairs: ‘Free inspections or estimates’ that have hidden costs on repairs that do not exist.
*Utility Inspector: False accusation of ‘breaking utility regulations’ and offers to find a quick fix when there is really nothing wrong.
*Insurance Fraud: Policies offering ‘low rates with great benefits’. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
*Medical Fraud/Miracle Cures: “Quick fixes” that may not be medically sound. Consult with a doctor.
*Property Scams: Fictitious ‘investment deals’. Check out the property/owner before purchasing.
*Phony Charities: Solicitations from groups pretending to be a charity, real or otherwise. Make your own contacts to donate.
*Debt Consolidation: Services offering to consolidate bills-hidden high interest rates.
*Bank Scams: You’re asked to withdraw money to help with an undercover investigation. The money becomes ‘evidence’ that is not returned.
*Investment Scams/Pyramid Schemes: “Get Rich” offers that promise little or no risk. Have your attorney check our any investments.
*Free Prize Offers: “A prize” for your credit card number, after a purchase or for attending a sales pitch, usually costs more than the prize.
*Vacation Packages: “Low-cost trips” that never take place or have hidden expenses.
*Foreign/Domestic Lottery Schemes: You’re told that you’ve inherited or won a large sum of money. Consult with an attorney. Foreign lotteries are illegal in the US.
- Do not talk to telemarketers.
a. Use an answering machine: telemarketers usually won’t leave a message.
b. Get caller ID: only answer calls from phone number that you recognize.
c. Hang up if there is a long hesitation before someone responds. Telemarketers make several call at a time and talk to the first person who answers.
d. If you are not interested, hang up. If you’ve already fallen for one scam, you may be on the list of ‘easy targets’.
2. If you do talk to them, trust your instincts.
a. Never give out personal information.
*Credit card numbers
*Bank ID numbers
*Driver’s License number
*Social Security number
(It’s illegal for telemarketers to ask for this information to claim a prize or gift).
b. Ask the state or federal agencies where the company is registered or regulated.
c. Get it in writing. If the offer sounds ‘too good to be true’, it probably is. Don’t be pressured.
d. Ask to be put on Do Not Call lists.
e. Keep a call log. Note dates and times you’ve received calls when you’d requested to not be called. Con artists are skilled liars who want your money.
*Beware of testimonials that you can’t check out (contacts can be fake).
*Ask about refund policies.
*Never agree to pay for something ‘free’.
*Contact the charities where you want to donate (Telemarketing firms representing organizations keep most of the money collected).
*Only contact well-established, reputable repairmen/companies.
*Never allow a repair person to fix anything with your prior approval.
*Get estimates & referrals
*Follow-up on references.
*Have someone you trust look over the agreement.
*Discuss financial decisions with someone you trust.
*Investigate before investing. Check it out by asking for local references.
*Never sign a contract without having someone you trust read it first.
*Never wire money or send cash by messenger or mail
*Never authorize bank drafts.
*Follow up on any unpaid bills accrued by a deceased spouse. They may not be real.
*Be leery of ‘official looking’ ads or sweepstakes that you receive in the mail.
*If your Social Security number is on your driver’s license or checks have it removed.
*Avoid having bank debit cards. Stealing from them is easy.
*Avoid calling 900 numbers. They are not toll free and there are usually hidden frees.
“Tricks”: Don’t fall for these:
*”You must pay to win”.
*”You must decide now”.
*”We need your credit card number”.
*”You must pay now”. (Cashier’s check money order wired or personally picked up).
*”Do not tell anyone, say you need the money for a family emergency.” (So, others will not be alerted).
*”The initial investment will be well worth the risk” or “You’ll regret it later if you don’t”.
*”We do not provide written information or references.”
*”You’re stupid if you don’t do this.” (Humiliation and put downs used to change your mind).
*”The promise or prize is in the mail.” (But never delivered).
If you are a victim: Report fraud to local law enforcement, the Better Business Bureau or your local consumer protection office.
National Consumers League Fraud Information Center: (202) 835-3323. http://www.fraud.org
Federal Consumer Information Center. http://www.publications.usa.gov.
Disclaimer: This information is taken directly from the National Child Safety Council pamphlet, and I give them full credit for the information. Please check out their website for more information.
Please do not give information out to anyone either over the phone or by mail or at the door.