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Some tips on
Living Simply

Tips on avoiding SCAMS

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By Pat Mestern

If I don't seem my usual jolly self this time around, it is because I just learned that an elderly acquaintance has been scammed out of nearly $60,000. Oh, he didn't give the money out all at once. It took nearly nine months and four phone calls to clean out his bank account. He hasn't told his family because he was ashamed that at age 83, he could be scammed. He will never see his money again. He wanted to believe he had won. He wanted to leave his children will a small inheritance. He did not just HANG UP!

At least once a month I get a telephone call. The conversation goes something like this - ‘Mrs. Mestern, you are receiving this call because (insert one of the following) - you have won a Caribbean cruise - you have won a sport utility vehicle - you have won $50,000 - you are in the running to win $100,000... (and the list goes on).

To claim my prize all I need to do is give my credit card number over the telephone to (insert one of the following) hold it for you - an in good faith payment to keep me in the "game" - to cover handling charges - to cover taxes... (and the list goes on).

I also get "pump and dump" telephone calls offering worthless stocks, and once received a real nasty - "we are bank inspectors and have a problem with a staff member at the bank you deal with"...

Well, folks. Do you know what I do? I HANG UP! Once after I hung up, the telephone rang again. It was a "scum" artist with attitude. "Don't ever hang up on me again", he said. Next ploy - I hit the receiver "connections" on the telephone quickly several times and said "Operator, please trace this call." Never heard from him again.

Now I ask you. Who would be foolish enough to fall for such a come-on? Apparently a lot of people! It doesn't matter what age you are, you can easily become a victim. More than 40 million dollars was "duked" by prize, loan and lottery scams in Canada since 1995. This figure doesn't take into consideration all those unsuspecting and trusting folks who were scammed in the U.S.A! Beware, some of these scammers have their "head offices" in Canada.

People are gullible. They spend their lives believing they might win big time. A little greed enters the picture too. That's why so many scams are perpetuated each year. Although everyone is fair game, seniors in particular are targeted for certain scams because they are very trusting individuals. They are frequently caught in scams supposedly dealing with bank fraud and home improvement.

Fraud takes many forms. Home improvement fraud often involve tradesmen who ring your doorbell. "I notice that your roof needs repair... your driveway needs resurfacing... the porch needs a paint job." These people are persistent and do not take no for an answer. Many people tell me that they finally say "Go ahead. Do the work" because they couldn't get rid of the intruder. Of course, the job is done sloppily, not completed or not done at all. The victim is always vastly overcharged for shoddy work. Often they give money up front "for supplies" and never see the trades person again.

Have you ever received telephone calls that touch on "children" and "poverty" or "drugs?" - How about these come - on lines - "we are selling advertising/sponsorship in a publication dealing with children and hunger" - "we are selling tickets for a show which proceeds will go toward children and poverty" - "we are asking you for a donation which will go toward fighting the war against children and drugs." Payment is no problem, just give us your credit card number. The questions is how does one combat telephone scams and fraudulent trades people? The answers are simple and effective:

  • Only do business with people and organizations you have contacted first, after doing some preliminary research on them.
  • Only deal with reputable local trades people, recommended by the Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau who should know, and stand behind their members.
  • Never pay in advance for a product or service
  • Never spend money to get a "free" prize. Free means FREE!
  • Never give credit card information over the phone, the exception being if you have instigated the call i.e. You personally booking accommodation or theatre tickets.
  • NEVER, ever withdraw large sums of money for "private investigators or bank inspectors". Never hand large sums of money to complete strangers. Call you local police department if you ever receive a telephone call from a "bank inspector".
  • Never give personal banking and investment information over the telephone.
  • At publicly attended trade shows and fairs, never fill in ballots that promise exorbitant FREE prizes. This is one way scam artists get your personal information - telephone numbers and addresses.
  • Never enter into a conversation with a scammer or telemarketer over the phone. You will not "win" the conversation. They have been trained to answer all questions you might ask.
  • Never buy "pump & pump:" stocks over the telephone. Deal only with your trusted financial advisor or bank.
  • HANG UP! Don't be afraid to hang up on any suspect call. It is your telephone and your privacy that these scam/con artists are invading. Get tough. HANG UP!
  • SLAM YOUR DOOR. It is your property, your door. SLAM IT and LOCK IT if you are bothered by a "trades person."
  • Alert other people to likely scams. Spread the word among your friends.
  • If it sounds to good to be true, it is. Prize, loan or lottery winning calls perpetrated by con artists where one has to send money are SCAMS.

"Scratch and Win" tickets that appear in the mail with a #1-900 number to call to claim the prize are SCAMS. The owner of the #1-900 number gets your money. You get a bill for the telephone call at the end of the month.

Some banks now ask their tellers to be alert to seniors who suddenly withdraw large sums of money. Some banks instruct tellers to politely question the senior to ascertain if a fraud is taking place. The children of senior citizens should be vigilant about changes in an elderly parent's banking routine, especially if large sums of money are being withdrawn.

If you think you have been the victim of a trade scam, or know you have but were afraid to tell anyone, call your local police department FIRST.

If you have received a telephone call about a prize, loan or lottery winning that involves sending money or giving your credit card information over the telephone, call phonebusters #1-888-495-8501. Check out Phonebuster's web site Phonebusters is national deceptive telemarketing call centre operated by the Ontario Provincial Police. Their #1-800 number is valid anywhere on the NORTH AMERICAN continent. They want to hear from you, be you a Canadian or the U.S. citizen.

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