A lesson on how not to be scammed

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A lesson on how not to be scammed

Never quit.  It is the easiest cop-out in the world.  Set a goal and don’t quit until you attain it.  When you do attain it, set another goal, and don’t quit until you reach it.  Never quit.— Bear Bryant, Hall of Fame football coach

A law firm associate tells me that she has received calls from three different clients saying that they have paid money to a firm to provide copies of the Deed to their homes.  One of the clients provided us the information mailed to him.  It looks so, so official.  So believable.  And, on the bottom line it says “To obtain a copy of your Deed and complete Property Profile, please detach and return in the enclosed envelope with your processing fee of $83.00″

Looks like it’s time for the Scam reminders again.  Once a reader wrote in to ask me a question, and I answered it.  He wrote “Thank you.  I just wanted to be sure.  You know when you get a certain age you have to be absolutely sure of things, lest people think you’ve developed a stupid gene!”

Unfortunately, scammers, liars, and cheats already presume that older folks have developed a stupid gene, and they absolutely target seniors to receive phone calls and letters enticing them to do things that the senior will not have time to adequately review.  They push for quick responses which are necessarily not well-thought out, and they are not willing to let the senior talk to someone close to them and call back.

Before we start on other scams, please remember that a copy of your Deed is absolutely free, and is available on-line or at the Prince George’s County Land Records office, phone number 301-780-2253 or 301-952-3353.  The office is open from 8:30am to 4pm each week day.  Completing the on-line form at http://sdat.resiusa.org/RealProperty/Pages/default.aspx will provide you with the location (Liber and Folio) for where your deed is recorded. Complete Steps 1 and 2 on this form and the Results Page will provide a Deed Reference with the Liber and Folio of your deed recordation. Please provide this Liber/Folio number to the Land Records office and they will be able to provide you with a copy of your deed.

NCOA, National Council on Aging, on their website http://www.ncoa.org, writes that “Finance scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that they’re now considered ‘the crime of the 21st century.”   As an example, right now many seniors are very fearful of what changes will be made to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.  Fearful, yes.  Then it must be a perfect time for bad guys to address those fears by oh say, posing as Medicare representatives to get folks to give them their personal information.  There are even stories of scammers providing bogus services for elderly people at makeshift mobile clinics.  Then they use the personal information gathered on the forms there to bill Medicare and pocket the money.

For correct information to help answer your questions and point you to supplemental insurance you might need to sign up for during the open season, go to www.medicare.gov.  This is a helpful and easy to use site.  Also, ck television guides and the Senior Center for programs explaining your choices and answering your questions.

NCOA also notes that today more and more seniors use the internet to find better prices on specialized medications.  Because of that statistic, there are more counterfeit drug scams on the web.  The danger here is that, in addition to paying money for something that will not benefit your medical condition, you may unwittingly purchase unsafe substances that can actually inflict harm.

A Consumer Guide for Seniors is a 36-page booklet about avoiding scams and fraud.  You can request it from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office by phone, (888) 743-0023 or on the internet.  Go to www.oag.state.md.us and click “seniors” on the top menu bar.  Additionally, the booklet provides other useful information such as how to stop telemarketing calls and junk mail.

The Attorney General information lists so many scams there is not room for them in this column.  For instance, you receive an e-mail or phone call that appears to be from your bank, government agency, credit card company or website asking for personal information such as your Social Security Number, bank account number, password and/or PIN number or credit card number.  This type of scam, known as phishing can lead to substantial financial loss, ruined credit, and the creation of false accounts in your name.  Be sure to read the Identity Theft chapter in the consumer guide.

One of the saddest scams is when a senior receives a check in the mail. The check is ordinarily made out for several thousand dollars.  Everything about the accompanying letter and the check looks official.  People receiving these checks have a strong impulse to go deposit the check in the bank.  Sometimes the letter recipient is told that he has won a lottery, perhaps, or sweepstakes of some kind, and that he needs to make some sort of payment to unlock the supposed prize. Or, maybe all the person needs to do is deposit the check in their bank.  It will take a few days before the fake check is rejected, and the victim has the money removed from his account as soon as the check bounces.

Keep in mind three key signs of potential fraud, says the attorney general.  They are:  (1) You are contacted by a stranger.  (2) You are offered a “great” deal.  (3) You must act right away, or your opportunity to take advantage of the deal will be lost.

Please, for your own good, develop a healthy dose of skepticism.  It is not rude to hang up on telephone solicitors who won’t accept “no” for an answer.  It is not rude to ignore mail delivered to you containing “scam” material – immediately toss it in the wastebasket.  It’s a cruel world out there.

Thank you for reading.  Stay well.  See you next week.

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