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Tips to Prevent Senior Scams
 By Allen Riggs

(Page 1 of 3)

There is a ring at the front door and you answer.  A kind-hearted gentleman informs you that he has just fixed your neighborís roof and he has a lot of material left over.  He tells you that your roof is in bad shape and there is a bad storm brewing. He says that your house could get damaged and cost you thousands if you donít act now.  In fact, he will give you a special rate if you pay up front in cash.  You donít want to have a leaky roof and you canít pass up such a great deal.  You agree to have your roof fixed and hand over a large sum of money on the spot. You later find out that nothing is wrong with your roof and you have just been swindled out of thousands of dollars.

If this scenario sounds all too familiar, you may be one of the 25 million Americans that were victims of fraud last year, according to the Federal Trade Commission. 
Seniors are one of the top targets for a wide variety of scams.  In fact, seniors make up 11 percent of the U.S. population, but constitute 30 percent of consumer fraud and 50 percent of all phone scam victims.

Why are seniors so heavily targeted by scam artists?  Many seniors grew up in a time when business was based on a handshake and trust.  According to a study done by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), older people are quicker to believe promises and slower to take action to protect legal rights.  Plus, many seniors live alone and are susceptible to ďfriendlyĒ callers, whoever they may be.  Add this to the fact that older people own more than half of all financial assets in the U.S. and it becomes clear why scam artists aim at seniors.

TELEMARKETING FRAUD

While telemarketers call people of all ages, backgrounds and incomes, they often make up to 80 percent of their calls to older consumers (according to the AARP). These telemarketers often prey upon older people who are well educated, have above-average incomes and are socially active in their community. Their sales pitches are sophisticated and include phony prizes, illegitimate sweepstakes, fake charities, and bogus investments.

STEPS TO TAKE:

  • Never send money or give out personal information such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, dates of birth, or Social Security numbers to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons.
  • If you have doubts about a telemarketerís legitimacy, be sure to ask for their companyís name and address, along with a phone number where they can be reached at a later time.
  • For elderly widows, if a caller asks for the man of the house, be sure not to say that there isnít one or indicate that you live alone.
  • Talk to family and friends or call your lawyer, accountant or banker and get their advice before you make any large purchase or investment over the phone with a stranger.
  • Check out unfamiliar companies with your local consumer protection agency, Better Business Bureau, the National Fraud Information Center, or other watchdog groups.
  • Be sure to sign up for the Federal Trade Commissionís Do-Not-Call-Registry.  Telemarketers who continue to call you after you have registered are subject to penalties.  You can sign up at www.donotcall.gov or at (888) 382-1222.
  • Donít forget the power to simply hang up the phone when a stranger calls trying to sell you something you donít want!

 

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