As an attorney, I hear stories of scam and abuses everyday, but the ones that make me the angriest are those focused against our elderly. Our aged population is targeted as they tend to be more trusting and usually won’t hang up on people. They also underreport fraud due to embarrassment, or fear that family will not trust them to handle their affairs.
Please share these tips with anyone who can benefit:
1. This is a new scam: Never respond to an official-looking letter saying that you need to pay $50-90 dollars for a copy of your property deed. You do not need a copy anyway, but official-looking letters have been sent out in Tennessee with “compliance deadlines.” Trash them. (If you want a copy, you can print for free online or the Register’s office will provide one for a very nominal fee).
2. There is an old one that keeps coming up: An email is sent saying that a loved on was on a trip, and needs money. They claim you cannot talk to them by phone. The fact that they contact you by email and claim no phone is available should make you suspicious. Ignore it.
3. Spring is the time of year when people will sometimes walk up and offer to patch your driveway, repair your roof, trim trees, or other things that you did not request. Beware. They often demand money upfront or expect much more after the job. Get written estimates from three companies, check with the Better Business Bureau and ask for your family’s advice to be sure.
4. Phones in your home are there for your convenience, not the caller’s! If you are getting telemarketing calls, put yourself on the Tennessee Do Not Call Program: Call 1-877-TRA-7030 from your home phone. The National Do-Not-Call Registry is 1-888-382-1222. Currently over 50 million consumers have registered.
5. Never give out personal information on the phone, especially to those who call you asking for “verification” of your bank account or social security number. According to the FBI, these are common lines to watch out for: “You must act now, or the offer won’t be good.” “You’ve won a free gift, vacation, or prize, but you have to pay for postage and handling.” “You do not need to speak to anyone about this.” They do not want your asking your family, lawyer, accountant, local Better Business Bureau, or consumer protection agency.
6. We all see commercials for Reverse Mortgages, but did you know that about 1 in 10 winds up in default? If that occurs, they can foreclose on your home, leaving your homeless. Proceed with extreme caution.
7. Identity theft. A “credit card company” calls and gives the last four digits of the card and says there was a fraudulent purchase. The caller offers to fix it if he just has the three- or four-digit verification code on the back of the credit card. Of you hear, “You must send money, give a credit card or bank account number, or have a check picked up by courier.” You may hear this before you have had a chance to consider the offer carefully. Just hang up.
8. You have not won the Canadian Lottery or the Jamaican Sweepstakes! No one in Africa has millions to get out of the country. “If it sounds to good to be true, it usually is.”
If I could stop all this I would. As Moses advised, “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:32(NIV).