Help seniors fight fraud

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Seniors are too often victimized by telemarketing fraud. Studies from the American Association of Retired Persons have shown that many elderly fraud victims simply don’t suspect the person soliciting money on the phone could be a criminal.
The FBI reports that there are as many as 14,000 illegal telemarketing operations going on at any given time. These illegal operations generate as much as $40 billion a year. Relatives of seniors are understandably concerned, particularly if those seniors live alone and no one is around to monitor how many calls they’re receiving from telemarketers. Concerned relatives can share the following information with seniors to reduce their loved ones’ risks of being victimized by telemarketing fraud.
* Legitimate marketers are not in a rush to sell products or secure donations. A legitimate marketer or charity will not try to pressure prospective buyers into making a purchase over the phone or prospective donors into making immediate contributions. Explain to seniors that a legitimate marketer will accept a person’s desire for written information about the products or charity and will gladly send such information to a prospective buyer or donor’s home.
* Payments are typically not picked up by a courier service. Telemarketing fraudsters often employ couriers to pick up payments. This is not the action of a reputable charity or business, and seniors should never agree to buy a product or donate money to any telemarketer who offers to send a courier to their home to pick up payment.
* Sweepstakes cannot legally require payment to win a prize. It is not legal for contests or sweepstakes to require “winners” pay a fee before they can enter a contest or claim a prize. Seniors should be made aware that this is the law and that any contest or sweepstakes demanding payment is bogus.
* Be especially wary of companies offering to recover money paid to fraudulent telemarketers in the past. Companies offering to recover past money lost to fraud are often fraudulent themselves. These companies will offer their fraudulent services for a fee.
* Money lost to a fraudulent telemarketer is likely lost forever. Men and women concerned about elderly friends or relatives being victimized by telemarketing fraud should explain to their loved ones that money lost in a telemarketing scam is not likely to be recovered. This should help highlight the importance of receiving official documentation from any telemarketers before buying a product or making a donation. If seniors are aware their money isn’t likely to be recovered should it be going to a criminal, they are much less likely to make hasty decisions over the phone.
To learn more about fraud, visit the National Consumer League’s Fraud Center at