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September 21, 2018

Seniors Targeted in Area Scams


Submitted by Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Pulaski)

Assemblyman Will Barclay (R,C,I—Pulaski) today warned people that there are several scams taking place in the area, particularly targeting seniors. He said seniors should know what to avoid so they can protect themselves. Loved ones of seniors should also be on the alert to help prevent scammers from victimizing seniors.

“A number of constituents have called the office, reporting that they have received harassing phone calls at all hours of the day from people who demand personal information,” said Barclay. “Not only is this a nuisance at the very least, but often, these scammers are aggressive, call repeatedly and use threatening language as a means to try and get what they want from potential victims. This is illegal and should be reported to the State Consumer Protection Board.”

If people believe they have been a victim of a telemarketing or a mail scam, they are encouraged to contact the State Consumer Protection Board at 1-800-697-1220 and to report it the local authorities as well. In some cases, there are investigations underway and your experience may help investigators.

The State Consumer Protection Board publishes a helpful guidebook called Smart Senior. According to the guidebook, people over the age of 65 make up almost 13 percent of the United States population but represent 30 percent of scam victims. Every year, seniors lose thousands of dollars responding to telemarketing calls selling a variety of products, worthless services, and overvalued or risky investments.

According to the State Consumer Protection Board, it is a $40 billion a year business for scam artists who often use high-pressure sales tactics and make offers on the phone that can sound too good to be true.

The most common scams involve:

· Advance fee loans

· Prizes/sweepstakes

· Business opportunities

· Real estate

· Credit card offers

· Stocks and bonds

· Magazine sales

· Travel and vacations

· Pay-per-call services

· Work-at-home schemes

· Foreign currencies & lotteries

One such scam dubbed the Grandson Scam, has victimized many seniors in different parts of the state in recent months. Scam artists pose as the victim’s grandson and use phrases when they get on the phone such as “This is your favorite grandson.” Often the victim will name a grandson. When the victim provides a name, this gives the scam artist something to use during the conversation. The scam artist goes on to explain they are in trouble, are in jail and desperately need the grandparent to wire them money. According to Consumer Board of Protection spokespeople, the scam artists are convincing actors and sound genuinely embarrassed of their act. They ask the “grandparent” not to tell their parents because that would make things worse for them. Many times, seniors not only fall victim but are embarrassed and ashamed that they fell for a scam.

Consumer Protection says people should be skeptical if a salesperson on the other end of the phone offers you products or services that sound too good to be true. Here are some tips to help you avoid scams:

· Never disclose your credit card, bank account or Social Security numbers to someone who contacts you by telephone or Internet.

· Ask detailed questions about the offered product/service, the total price, the delivery date, the return and cancellation policy, and the warranty terms;

· Ask the caller to send you more information through the mail. Any reputable company will mail information about its products or services. If a telemarketer is unwilling to provide you with specifics on the phone or through the mail, be suspicious;

· Do research on the company. Check the company’s track record with your local Better Business Bureau;

· Resist pressure to send payment via private courier, wire transmission or overnight delivery. These tactics sometimes prevent you from changing your mind.

· Pay with a credit card since Federal law protects consumers from paying for charges on their accounts when they have not received the ordered merchandise. You have the right to contest such a charge with your credit card company;

· Take your time in making decisions. Remember, they called you. Don’t be afraid to say no, or hang up.

Federal law requires telemarketers to limit their calling hours to between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.; tell consumers that they are trying to sell something; Identify the actual seller; and; disclose the nature of the products or services for sale, their costs, and any delivery restrictions before asking any consumer for money. Residents may also register with the Do Not Call Telemarketing registry by calling 1-86-NO CALL-NY or via the Internet at http://www.consumer.state.ny.us. More information on scams is also available online at http://www.nysconsumer.gov/pdf/protecting/scam_prevention/great_deals_big_scams.pdf

Once a name appears on the list, telemarketers have 30 days to remove the name from telemarketing lists.

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