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High pressure salespeople and conmen often use the phone against elderly people.  They know that seniors are often home by themselves, are somewhat insecure about their finances, and many seniors are more trusting.

  • When you receive a telephone solicitation, suggest the caller mail you detailed written information about the item, service or opportunity they are promoting or the charity they are working for.

  • Get the full name of the company or organization and check it out before you give or send any money. For example, you can call the Better Business Bureau, look for a listing in phone and business directories (available at a library), check the firm's web site, or even call a local police telemarketing fraud squad for information.

  • Ask how the company and the industry it operates in is regulated. Or if you're speaking to someone representing a charity, find out its registration number and double-check with the appropriate government agency.

  • Even if you're tempted by the product offered, never rush into anything. Don't let the caller bully or badger you into making a decision or purchase on the spot.  

  • Beware of testimonials - those promotional statements from so-called happy customers. You usually have no way of knowing whether these people exist or if their statements are fact or fiction.  

  • Do not buy or invest in something if you don't understand all the details of the purchase or agreement you are being asked to make.  

  • If you are even considering an investment or major purchase, ask that the relevant information also be sent to your accountant, bank manager, lawyer, or someone else who can provide financial or legal advice.  

  • Ask what happens if you aren't happy with the product or service. Will you get your money back in full? How much time do you have to evaluate your purchase?  

  • Avoid providing personal information, and especially financial details such as your credit card number, over the telephone. If you must do so, give only the information absolutely needed for the transaction.  

  • If the caller makes you uncomfortable or persists in his sales pitch after you have said "no", just hang up.

When you are out...

  • No matter whether you are far from home or on your front porch, be alert. Try not to travel alone. Stay away from dark parking lots or alleys.

  • Your monthly pension or any other funds you receive regularly should be deposited directly to your bank account rather than sent by check.

  • If you go to the bank frequently, don't always go at the same time of the day or week.

  • Avoid carrying cash; and if you must carry a handbag, avoid keeping your money and credit cards in it. Put these items in an inside pocket or consider using a money belt.

  • Don't dress in a way that signals you might be carrying money. In other words, unless you know for sure you will be safe, don't wear your best jewelry or your fur coat.

  • If you do have the misfortune to be stopped by a robber, the best way to minimize your risk is to hand over any cash you have. 

Don't be conned by these criminal schemes...

  • Never withdraw and hand over money from your bank account if a stranger asks you to do it. Do not comply even the person tells you he is a bank employee and the withdrawal is designed to "test" a bank teller. Banks do not test their employees in this fashion.

  • Do not give your credit card or bank account number to a stranger who has telephoned you to sell a product or ask for a charitable contribution.

  • If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Stay away from it. In particular, avoid any scheme in which you have to provide money up front, even if you are promised a large or valuable prize. If you are offered this type of deal, check with your local Better Business Bureau or the police.

  • Quick fixes or miracle cures for most health problems do not exist. But advertisements and promotions for these products - such as cures for arthritis, baldness, or even cancer - can be persuasive and tempting. Always ask your doctor about these products first, because many can do as much harm as good.


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