Americans lose an estimated $40 billion a year in telemarketing fraud alone, and another $4 billion in mail scams. And the victims are often seniors. You could be approached through the mail, by telephone, via e-mail or at your front door. Know your rights and how you might be vulnerable. As the old adage goes: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Beware of consumer scams
Please beware of scams of people trying to take money from you – some examples are “winning” the Canadian lottery and needing to send a check for $50,000 so that they can send the proceeds of the lottery to you. Once the check is mailed and has cleared, it can be impossible to retrieve.
Another scam is an email or letter about money from Nigeria (or wherever) about the need to have an account to deposit that money. You would then keep part and send them part. Of course, they simply strip YOUR account of all money in it. Other common scams include:
Charitable Donation Con: Watch out for fake charities. Certain charities must register with the Secretary of State. To find out if a charity is registered, call (602) 542-6670 or (800) 458-5842 (In-state toll free) or visit http://www.azsos.gov. Keep in mind that registration does not guarantee the charity is worthy or legitimate. If you have questions or suspicions about a charity or a fundraiser before donating, you may also contact the Arizona Attorney General’s Office at (602) 542-5763 (Phoenix), (520) 628-6504 (Tucson), or (800) 352-8431 (Outside Phoenix and Tucson) or visit the Attorney General on-line for the latest warnings and information. You could also check with your local Better Business Bureau on-line or at (602) 264-1727 or toll free at (877) 291-6222.
Door-to-Door Solicitation: Ask to see a business permit. (Most cities require one.) Resist pressure to buy anything on the spot. Contact the Better Business Bureau to check out the business. To report a fraud, call the police or county district attorney’s office.
Financial Advisors and Investment Scams: Beware of investment seminars touting get-rich quick schemes. Check out the “investment” before investing.
Funeral and Cemetery Fraud: Watch out for high-priced sales pitches. Check with your local Better Business Bureau as well.
Home Repair/Home Improvement: It may sound like a good deal. A repairman will fix your roof with “leftover” materials from another job. You pay cash—and he does a shoddy job or nothing at all. Or, a plumber fixes your clogged toilet and presents you with a $10,000 bill. Before hiring a contractor, get several estimates, check references and put everything in writing. Be aware that your home cannot be used as collateral in a home improvement contract if you are 65 or older.
Contact the Arizona Registrar of Contractors to check the contractor’s license and any past complaints (602) 542-1525 TTD (602) 542-1588 or toll-free outside Maricopa County (888) 271-9286. Such contractors must be licensed.
Medicare Fraud: Never give your Medicare number to a stranger. Always check your
Medicare statement to verify that you actually received the services charged to Medicare. If you suspect provider fraud, call Medicare's toll free Hotline at (800) 633-4227.
Living Trust Mills: Beware of “trust mill” marketing schemes in which salespeople pose as experts in estate planning to gain your trust and confidence. These unqualified “experts” seek to obtain your personal financial information with the ulterior motive of selling you both a living trust and an annuity, which may not be appropriate for you. Such tactics may violate insurance code laws and laws prohibiting the unauthorized practice of law. To report a scam, call your local District Attorney's Office.
Telemarketing/Mail /Internet Fraud: It can be difficult to distinguish legitimate telemarketers and e-mail solicitations from those that are not. Never provide personal information or send money to solicitors who contact you first. Instead, simply hang up or insist on calling the individual back after you have had time to check out the solicitation. Also, steer clear of any caller or mailer announcing that you have won a sweepstakes or foreign lottery and simply need to pay a “fee” or “tax” to collect your winnings. (The cross-border sale or purchase of lottery tickets is illegal—and so is any advance charge for collecting the prize.) For information on filing a complaint, contact the Arizona Attorney General’s Office at (888) 377-6108 or the Arizona Better Business Bureau at (602) 264-1727 or (877) 291-6222.Other types of scams include real estate predatory lending scams and credit repair/credit card insurance sales scams. Some seniors may even give someone a power of attorney and then find out that he or she has stolen their savings.