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Scam-Proofing for Seniors

Authored By: Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. LSC Funded

Information

SCAM-PROOFING FOR SENIORS

Con artists love Senior Citizens! Seniors make up only 1/8th of the population, yet up to one-third of fraud victims nationwide are Seniors.

THEY COUNT ON YOUR SILENCE

SOME COMMON SCAMS

  • Home repairs, clean-up efforts, heating and cooling equipment, and damage or repairs to automobiles; usually against elderly, and single or widowed women living alone.
  • Telephone scams; it is not rude to hang up on telemarketers, particularly one who is trying to get personal information from you, or seems unwilling to take no for an answer.
  • "Secret formulas," "breakthroughs" or products claiming to cure different diseases that do not seem related
  • Phony charities; contact the Better Business Bureau or the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office if suspicious.
  • Opportunities to earn money working at home; stuffing envelopes, preparing mailing lists, making craft projects, or preparing doctor's bills. You'll be charged for information, kits, supplies or software and receive worthless information.
  • Claims of being a foreign government executive, prince, or doctor who needs to transfer large amounts of money to America; you're asked to allow money to be transferred to your account, and offered a percentage of the money. You will lose any promised fee, and maybe your entire bank account.

TACTICS


Many scam artists use very slick marketing tactics which are often difficult to tell from the real thing. Don't be fooled. If you get a flyer asking you to contribute to a fund for hungry children that tells you all about how bad it is for children to be hungry but nothing about the charity itself - PASS. Beware of "official" looking checks and certificates which you may cash or redeem only after sending money for processing or some other purpose. Finally, even though someone has an official looking ID card or wears a uniform, call and verify before admitting them to your home or giving them ANY information.

BE SCAMPROOF


1. Don't disclose personal information to strangers; Never let them into your home.
2. Don't write account numbers on the outside of payment envelopes.
3. Don't keep PIN (personal identification numbers) numbers written down in your purse or wallet.
4. Guard your Social Security number. Do not put it on checks. Always use an alternate ID number such as your drivers license number. Ask for an explanation why the number is needed. Never display it on boats or vehicles.
5. Destroy all records, cancelled checks, receipts, deposit slips, etc. before throwing them away. Buy a shredder or tear documents into tiny pieces. Put scraps in different trash cans.
6. Never pay in advance (especially in cash) to an unknown contractor or salesman.
7. Get a second or even third opinion or estimate; consult with someone you trust before making decisions.
8. Unless an important document or card is needed for the errand at hand, leave it at home or in a safety deposit box.
9. Don't let greed overcome common sense. Avoid get-rich-quick schemes, "free" offers, or "you have won" solicitations. If it sounds too good to be true, it is!
10. Beware of:

  • high pressure sales
  • demands for cash only
  • the need for quick decisions
  • secret deals available for specially selected people
  • no-risk, high-yield investments
  • delayed delivery or products or services
  • offers requiring that cashier's checks be sent immediately by private over-night carriers
  • Requires payment before disclosing information, such as work at home opportunities or credit cure alls.

COMMON MYTHS

Con men are harmless rogues
All con men are professional criminals, many are involved in more dangerous crimes.
Fool me once, shame on me
Professional con men are just, that, professionals! Always report the crime!
I'll just chalk it up to experience
When criminals get away with scams, they will continue to victimize, even by sharing lists with other criminals.
I'll know a con man when I see one
Not all con men are men. Some are women, youth, neighbors, friends or relatives.
I have 3 days to change my mind when someone solicits business in my home
If criminals cared about the law, they wouldn't be criminals. When you part money by giving it to a crook, you will never see it again.
Con men are "fly-by-night" drifters
Some even look like a legitimate businesses. Some take advantage by unfair practices that allow them to profit unfairly without breaking any laws. It looked so real
Very slick marketing tactics are often difficult to tell from the real thing. "Official" looking checks and certificates which you may cash or redeem may not be what they seem.

SPEAK UP

If it happens to you, reporting the crime may prevent the same from happening to your family or neighbor.

HELPFUL NUMBERS
Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma 405-239-6081
Oklahoma Attorney General 405-521-9321

NOTICE TO READER

This information is offered only for educational purposes. It is not intended to be used as specific legal advice. Every individual case is different.

Last Review and Update: Sep 02, 2008
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