Critter Corner: Scams to Watch Out For

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Dear Angel,

As my father is getting older and his dementia is getting worse, I am concerned that he is more susceptible to getting taken advantage of by scammers and con artists. Can you tell me about some of the more recent scams, so I can keep my eyes open for them on his behalf?

Thanks for your help!

Reese Sentscams

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Dear Reese,

It is wise to stay aware of scams and important to help family members in need prevent them. Below are the most recent ones from the AARP Fraud Watch Network and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):

Need a locksmith? If you or a loved one is locked out of your home or car, you may need to find a locksmith. As you search online, you’ll probably see multiple ads that appear to be for local businesses. Be aware that some will actually connect you to call centers in another city. Operators in far-off call centers may give surprisingly low estimates and dispatch poorly trained locksmiths. When the locksmiths arrive, they say the job will cost much more than the estimate you were quoted and they insist you pay with cash. They hope you’ll be desperate enough to pay. The FTC suggests that before you hire anyone, you should call and confirm the business name, get details about the locksmith’s license, registration, and insurance, and then verify the information you got on the phone with the locksmith when he or she arrives. Another idea is to consider finding a locksmith now, before you need one. Keep the company name and number in your smart phone or wallet … just in case, and give a trusty neighbor a key.

Is Your Magazine Subscription Up for Renewal? Most people don’t remember when their magazine subscriptions are up for renewal, and that’s where scammers step in. Scammers are sending very realistic subscription renewal notices, typically offering a steep discount for renewing by a certain date. The subscriber sends in the money to renew the magazine, all for nothing. If you are unsure about when your subscriptions expire, you can find the date on the mailing label on your magazine. If you get a renewal notice you’re unsure of, contact the publisher directly.

Do you have a sign for a home security system in your yard? Fraudsters will hire college students to troll through neighborhoods looking for houses with security system signs in their yards. The student will tell the homeowner the security company is going out of business, and the student’s “company” is taking over the account. The homeowner is told s/he has to buy new equipment and sign a new contract. However, the equipment is fake and the homeowner is paying for a service s/he isn’t receiving. If you get this kind of visit, check first with your home security company. Better yet, don’t ever do business with someone who comes unsolicited to your home.

Be Wary of “Free Trial” Subscriptions: We’ve all seen famous TV personalities touting products and offering free trials. The problem is, you accept a free trial or subscription, only to find out that you have to cancel once you have received the free item. When you don’t cancel, you receive more products and you’re stuck with bill after bill after bill. Always read the fine print before accepting a free trial, or simply decline the offer, because there’s almost always a catch. Keep an eye out for unauthorized charges on your credit card statement. If one appears, first call the toll-free number next to it to question the charge — it might be something legitimate that you purchased but the charge appears under an odd name. If it is a fraudulent charge, or a recurring charge you didn’t realize you signed up for, ask them how to cancel. They may be a legitimate company that will simply cancel the recurring charge over the phone, or they may tell you how to do it online or by mail. It may be a burdensome process to cancel a recurring charge, but you’ll just have to do it.  If you don’t get satisfaction from the vendor, then you can call your credit card company to report the charge as fraudulent, but there’s no guarantee that the credit card company, after doing it’s investigation, will side with you if in fact you signed up for the product or service. If you do get caught in this trap, you can file a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and your state attorney general’s office. But it is unlikely that filing a complaint will get you any financial relief. Again, your best bet for financial relief is to work it out directly with the vendor by following their cancellation process to the letter.

Read more about scams on the FTC website at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts or AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork. Contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network or 1-877-908-3360 or to report a scam or for more information on scam and fraud prevention and file a case with the FTC here.

Hope this is helpful!

Angel

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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