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Front Page » November 25, 2008 » Carbon County News » Carbon County sheriff conducts fraud awareness seminar
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Carbon County sheriff conducts fraud awareness seminar

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Sun Advocate community editor

Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova presented a fraud awareness seminar at Castleview Hospital last Friday, demonstrating tactics local residents can use to help safeguard their sanity and pocketbooks.

According to information provided Cordova from the National Consumer League's fraud information center, nearly one-third of all telemarketing fraud victims are older than the age of 60.

Additionally, studies from American Association of Retired Persons show that most older telemarketing fraud victims do not realize that the voice on the phone could belong to someone who is trying to steal their money.

"Many consumers believe that salespeople are nice young men or women simply trying to make a living," said the pamphlet. "They may be pushy or exaggerate the offer but they're basically honest. While that's true for most telemarketers, there are some whose intentions are to rob people, using phones as their weapons."

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigations indicates that there are thousands of fraudulent telemarketing companies operating at locations throughout the nation.

There are also an increasing number of illegal telemarketers who target U.S. residents from locations in Canada and foreign countries.

"It's difficult for victims, especially seniors, to think of fraudulent telemarketers' actions as crimes rather than hard sells. Many are even reluctant to admit that they have been cheated or robbed by illegal groups," continued the fraud prevention center.

After a meal provided during a break at the seminar, Cordova outlined five recommended steps that the elderly and all local residents who are being harassed can take to stop the criminal activity.

The first step in the cycle is to help other people by convincing them that fraudulent telemarketers are "hardened criminals who don't care about the pain they cause when they steal someone's life savings," pointed out the county sheriff .

The consumer league reported that, after senior citizens are made aware of the fact that fraudulent telemarketing schemes are serious offenses punishable by heavy fines and long prison terms, they are more likely to hang up and report the attempted crimes to law enforcement authorities.

The second step examines the myth that senior citizens' incompetence, senility, loneliness or isolation that makes them the target of the telemarketing crimes.

In most instances, senior consumers are lured into telemarketing schemes by false promises of great deals or ways to add to retirement incomes.

According to Cordova's documentation, fraudulent telemarketers take advantage of the fact that:

•It is difficult for consumers to tell whether someone is legitimate since the crooks posing as sales people are very convincing.

The scam artists use tactics such as friendship, excitement and a sense of urgency to lure individuals into a criminal situation.

•Seniors tend to be trusting, they have difficulty seeing the people on the other end of the line as crooks and often will give them the benefit of the doubt.

•They wear people down, says the consumer league data. It shows that seniors are targeted relentlessly, some getting more than 20 calls a day from con men, not to mention the attacks they receive through the mail.

•Last, many senior have a hard time hanging up on someone who won't quit speaking.

Older consumers tend to view hanging up on someone as rude and are therefore forced to continue to listen to the con job.

During the third step, Cordova outlined ways older people can readily recognize the red flags of an illegitimate call.

Some of the warning signs included:

•A promise that money will be won, made or borrowed easily.

•A demand that failing to act immediately will cause major loss.

•A refusal to send written information before any agreement is made.

•An attempt to scare an individual into buying something.

•Insistence that money be wired or picked up by a courier.

The fourth step focused on recognizing when a person has been defrauded and what steps to take.

Senior citizens may be in trouble if they:

•Are receiving a large amount of mail for free trips, contests, free prizes or sweepstakes.

•Are getting frequent calls from strangers offering great deals asking for charitable donations.

•Are making repeated payments to companies in other states or countries.

•Are having difficulty buying groceries or paying utility bills.

•Are receiving lots of cheap jewelry, beauty products, water filters or various items that were purchased with the promise of winning a large prize.

The final step in fighting this crime wave, according to Cordova's presentation, is to inform older people about how to reduce the number of unwanted calls and mailing they may be receiving.

To avoid getting on "sucker" lists, the consumer protection information recommends not filling out any contest entry forms at fairs or shopping malls as these are a common lead for con artists.

It is also important that a person know their "do not call" rights. Under federal law, a person can tell a telemarketer not to call their residence again.

It is recommended that seniors have a plan when confronted by one of these types of calls.

"Before you pick up the phone, know the questions you want to ask or what you want to say," states the consumer anti-fraud step list. "Be polite but be firm. Hang up if someone refuses to answer your questions or you detect the red flags of fraud."

For additional information on how to protect a loved one against consumer fraud, local residents may contact the Utah Better Business Bureau, the Direct Marketing Association, the National Fraud Information Center, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Wise Giving Alliance or the state's consumer protection agency.

Residents interested in more localized information may contact the Carbon County Sheriff's Office for assistance.

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