Fraud prevention workshop focuses on seniors listen06/02/09 Seán Kinane
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As the economy sinks deeper into recession, fraud against citizens remains a concern. For that reason, the Federal Trade Commission and the office of Sen. Mel Martinez held a fraud prevention workshop this morning at the new Town 'N Country Senior Center.
Claudene Hicks, 80, was a victim of telemarketing fraud which added charges to her phone bill. But she was able to clear up the matter by going to a consumer protection agency.
“I kept getting this bill and I knew I had not applied for this particular service. And when I went in to investigate they told me they had been preying on seniors, because they knew they wouldn’t, you know, check their telephone [bill] for anything unusual. But I saw this and I knew.”
In the fraud prevention workshop, Hicks and about 50 others heard from federal, state, and local agencies about the latest fraud scams and how to avoid them.
Doug Templeton, with the Pinellas County Department of Justice & Consumer Services, says that one-third of all telemarketing fraud victims are 60 or older.
Templeton’s counterpart across the Bay, Kevin Jackson with the Hillsborough County Consumer Protection Agency, shared his tips to avoid rip-offs by contractors, including never paying for a job before the work is done.
Fraud is a crime of opportunity, according to the regional director of the Federal Trade Commission, Brad Elbein. He said debt relief and mortgage foreclosure relief frauds are popular this year.
Rebecca Morgan is the director of the Center for Excellence in Elder Law at Stetson University’s College of Law in Gulfport. She says that it’s very important for people to be informed about scams and how to protect themselves.
After the program, staff from Martinez's office assisted residents with information about avoiding fraud.
A man from Manatee County who wants to remain anonymous says he is a victim of identity theft resulting in unauthorized charges to his bank account. He suggests speaking with your bank to find out what security measures they recommend including password protecting account information.