By Allen Riggs
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.
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
- 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