The U.S. Congress estimates that nearly $40 billion is lost each year to fraudulent telemarketers. Many of the thousands of Americans being deceived are seniors targeted by con artists selling bogus products and services by phone.
While it is often believed that victims are incompetent, lonely and isolated, research shows that many of the older people being targeted have better-than-average educations, higher-than-average incomes, good relationships with family and friends and an interest in participating in the life of the community.
Anyone can become a victim. Con artists are very good at what they do. But WISE Senior Services provides programs to help reduce your risk – with free community programs scheduled in the next few months – and there are steps you can take immediately.
If you receive a call from a telemarketer:
Ask for the name and address of the company, and a clear explanation of the offer being made;
Ask the caller to send you written material to study, including the money back guarantee, before you make a purchase;
Call the Better Business Bureau, your state Attorney General’s office, or the local consumer protection service in the state or city where the company is located, and ask if any complaints have been made against the firm;
Talk to family and friends, or call your lawyer, accountant or banker, and get their advice before you make any large purchase or investment;
Ask that your telephone number be removed from the telemarketing list if you don’t want to be called. If the calls continue, contact the police. It’s illegal to call a person who has asked to be removed from a list.
There are some things you should not do:
Don’t pay for any prize or send any money to improve your chances of winning. It’s illegal to ask you to pay to enter a contest;
Don’t allow any caller to intimidate you or bully you into buying something “right now”;
Don’t give any caller your bank account number. They can use it to withdraw money from your account at any time without your knowledge and/or permission;
Don’t give your credit card number to anyone over the telephone unless you made the call;
And never wire money or send money by an overnight delivery service unless you initiated the transaction.
WISE Senior Services offers a number of programs that combat fraud.
One is the Senior Fraud Prevention Call Center, provided in cooperation with the AARP Foundation. Fraud Fighter volunteers contact victims and others at risk to talk about current scams, offer tips on avoiding fraud and provide referrals to local agencies. They have reached thousands of consumers and need more volunteers to help seniors avoid becoming the con artists’ next victim. For information about opportunities to volunteer, contact Petula Storey at 310.394.9871 x441.
Through its SAIF program (Seniors Against Investment Fraud), WISE Senior Services delivers presentations on investment fraud to groups in the community. The SAIF presentation includes a 15-minute video made in conjunction with many state and federal agencies and AARP that includes interviews with both criminals and victims. Each attendee receives a booklet that provides information such as how to have a name removed from telemarketing and mailing lists. SAIF is offered in cooperation with the California Department of Corporations.
SAIF presentations will take place in several communities in the next few months:
September 15, 2007, 10:30 a.m., Venice Public Library
September 19, 2007, 2 p.m., Playa Vista Library
September 29, 2007, 3 p.m., Palms-Rancho Park Library
October 3, 2007, 6 p.m., Mar Vista Public Library
October 16, 2007, 2 p.m., Palisades Branch Public Library
November 6, 2007, 12 p.m., YWCA Santa Monica
WISE Senior Services also seeks to educate the community directly by providing speakers for public and professional groups on financial elder abuse, ID theft, estate planning documents and hoarding. Presentations can be scheduled by contacting Kim Hubbard at 310.394.9871 x435 or Vince Okada at 310.394.9871 x463.