Phone and Door-to-Door Scams

The Problem: Phone and Door-to-Door Scams

My Favorite Response: I tell my clients to say this to a would-be scam artist, both over the phone and in person: “ Please call my attorney, Karen Fortier, at 757-631-1900. She will decide whether I should take your offer.” (The crooks won’t call me!)   See other approaches and advice at the end of this message.

The following is an excerpt from the e-Bulletin of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys on May 6, 2015:

“Medical Alert Scammers Bully Seniors

Elderly consumers across the country found themselves bullied and tricked into paying hundreds of dollars for medical alert devices they never ordered, according to federal regulators. The seniors were in their 70s or older, often lived alone and had limited incomes but were scared into paying good money for something they didn't really want. Fear is often a huge part of the game plan whether it be scams involving medical alert devices, IRS impostor phone calls, fake debt collectors, magazine scams, and others. Some older consumers with dementia might not realize the real implications of reading their credit card or bank account information to someone pressuring them on the phone, according to regulators. Telemarketers in this medical alert case would say things such as "Aren't you scared that you're going to fall and no one's going to be there to help you out?" In some cases involving medical alert devices, telemarketers would give the impression the device was already ordered by a relative and somehow "free" to the senior. Later, the demands for money would heat up.” Source/more: USA Today

All of us need to be wary of strangers who call us or, even worse, those who show up at our homes. It is very easy for “snake oil salesmen” to learn a lot about us from public information on the Internet and elsewhere. Once they’ve learned a bit about us, they can sound pretty credible when they talk to us and ply their wares. I have personal knowledge of several highly intelligent people who have been scammed by various crooked roofing and driveway contractors, “Jamaican lottery” callers, fake IRS agents and others of their ilk.

So, how can you respond when you answer the phone and find a potential scammer waiting to pounce on you and your wallet? Here are a couple of suggestions: (1) watch your Caller I.D. before answering a phone call and don’t answer if you don’t know who’s calling; (2) if you answer a call and it’s someone you don’t know who tries to pressure you in ANY way, simply hang up on them; (3) as soon as you hang up, tell a trusted friend, neighbor or family member about the call. Be as specific as possible; and (4) write down the phone number of the caller and keep it on a list beside your phone.

You should definitely tell someone about the call. There are law enforcement agencies who are actively investigating many of the typical scams that are done over the phone. You or your trusted friend should contact the local police (such as the fraud division of the local detective bureau) or the FBI and report exactly what was said.

See the “Links” section on this website for additional law enforcement contact information.

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