Senior Scams

Senior Scams—1/08/08

INTRO: You're smart. You're careful and cautious. And you know that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So you should be safe from scams, right? Maybe not! Senior scams can catch anyone.

1. WHAT ARE THE LATEST SCAMS TARGETING SENIORS?

A. There's always a wide variety of scams. But let me give you an example or two. The FBI is warning the public to watch out for a scheme involving jury service. Someone calls, identifies himself as a U.S. Court employee, and tells you that you've been selected for jury duty. The caller asks you to verify personal information, such as your social security number, and sometimes credit card numbers. If you refuse, they threaten you with fines.

This is a hoax. Real court personnel don't call you and ask for personal information. Hang up, and call the local police or prosecutor's office.

2. CAN YOU GIVE US ANOTHER ONE?

A. Sure. Mrs. Smith lives alone. She does her best to maintain her property. But winter's a particularly tough time. So when a young man stopped by and told her about his snow shoveling company, she was quick to sign up. She immediately paid the up-front cost of $500, because they gave her a $50 discount for signing up right then. You can probably figure out the rest of the story. This gentleman failed to show up after the first snowfall, and when she called his telephone number, it was disconnected.

Many snow removal services are legitimate, and they often charge an up-front fee. But before signing up for any home maintenance or improvement service, check out references, preferably neighbors who you know. And call the Better Business Bureau and city hall to ask about any complaints, before you pay any money.

3. HOW ABOUT ONE MORE?

A. Your old bank statements, credit card receipts, and other financial papers often contain private information that can be used to steal your financial identity. Don't throw these in the garbage or recycling bag C scam artists actually go through your garbage. To protect yourself, tear up those papers before tossing them. Or better yet, get yourself an inexpensive shredder for your home. This easy solution can save you lots of money and hassles down the road.

4. IF WE DO GET SCAMMED, WHAT CAN WE DO?

A. That depends on the scam. But in general, call the Ohio Attorney General's office, 1-800-282-0515, and your local Better Business Bureau. And your local police and prosecutor may also be able to advise you on what to do.

CLOSE: It's sad that so many ripoff artists are trying to separate you from your money. And with the availability of the Internet and email, it's just getting worse. No one is protected C we're all targets. But by exercising caution, and following Jennifer's tips, you can improve your odds of avoiding trouble.