NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Avoiding Consumer Fraud

Avoiding Consumer Fraud


“You’ve won a free trip! This opportunity won’t last so act now!” Sound familiar? These are typical ploys used on unsuspecting consumers in an effort to steal their money. Each year Americans lose $100 billion to consumer fraud and more than 30 percent involve victims over age 65. Con artists are always developing new telephone and door-to-door scams. Fraudulent scams are also solicited through the mail, Internet, television, magazine or newspaper advertisements.


Older adults are a prime target for fraud? Why do con artists target older adults?


-          Loneliness. Older adults who have lost friends or have out-of-town family may be more receptive to conversations with friendly salespeople.


-          Problems in vision and hearing make it harder to read contracts and literature or harder to hear the salesperson.


-          Illness may be a motivator in looking for miracle cures or low-cost health care.


-          Limited income or a possibility of large amounts of cash on hand can make seniors vulnerable.


-          Retired people may be home more often making them more available as targets than younger adults.


-          Some older adults may be more polite, trusting or eager to help strangers.


What are some common methods of fraud?


-          Mail: Seniors account for 26 percent of all mail fraud victims with a 60 percent victim rate in the areas of prize offers and sweepstakes. Most mail scams work because people don’t recognize them as fraudulent until it is too late.


-          Telemarketing: Many products marketed over the telephone come from “boiler room” sellers who use high pressure sales techniques to scam callers. Common scams include 900 number or mystery phone charges, request for false charitable donations, unauthorized billing/automatic debit charges, impersonating a familiar organization to solicit, lotteries, business opportunities, travel or credit offers.


-          Door-to-Door: These scams often use fraudulent sales practices and frequently include home repair, magazine subscriptions or “students” raising money for fake school projects. Aside from the scam, these solicitors may also want access to your home to commit other crimes like theft.


-          Growing Internet abuses include: deceptive Internet sales/companies, fake Web sites official looking e-mails (“phishing” for your personal data) and intrusion by hackers.


-          Health fraud scams (health quackery) can involve dietary supplements, insurance, medical discount services, devices or treatments.



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