This information is provided for educational purposes only. The Town of Fairfield and the Fairfield Police Department expressly disclaim any and all liability resulting from the material and any recommendations provided and do not represent that these recommendations will prevent a crime or in the event of such crime limit damage to any person or property.
It can be hard to resist a phone call from a charity seeking desperately needed funds for flood victims, endangered species, or the homeless. A postcard claiming you have won a prize if you’ll just call and send in an “administrative fee.” Or an investment offer giving you an “exclusive chance to earn potentially enormous profits.
Experts estimate that consumers lose more than $100 billion annually to a broad assortment of frauds, cons and scams. Fraudulent telemarketing and direct mail appeals account for $40 billion of this total.
Alarmingly, the elderly are a major target for con artists, especially phony fundraisers or bogus investment and insurance schemes. Whether they are widowed and lonely, eager to help others or merely intrigued by a “once in a lifetime” opportunity, increasing numbers of older Americans are falling for sophisticated and slick appeals that can wind up costing them thousands of dollars, not to mention untold anguish and stress.
Taking your money is the number one goal of scamming. Many concoct their cons just to get a credit card number so they can go on a spending spree financed by Y-O-U. Other will bill you incredible sums for merely calling them to find out more. And still more want a check or cash as soon as possibly – by overnight delivery, by wire or even courier – so they have your money before you have them figured out.
Among one of the major scams are postcard sweepstakes offers. In a recent poll, 30% of Americans said they had responded to such mailings, sometimes sending hundreds of dollars to “register” for seemingly fabulous prizes or trips.
False charities are another popular consumer con. Telephone trouble makers claiming to represent everyone from police officers to the disabled take advantage of American’s generosity to the tune of billions of dollars every year. Adding to the problem is an array of fraudulent appeals – in newspaper ads, on television and by mail – about business and investment opportunities, vacation homes, and even “miracle cures” for everything from baldness to cancer.
What can you do:
- If a caller asks for your credit card, bank account or social security number to verify a free vacation, a prize, or gift, say “NO” and hang up.
- If you are calling a 900 number in response to an advertisement or something you received in the mail, make sure you know all the charges up front.
- Before you agree to support a charity that calls seeking money, ask for written information about its finances and programs.
If you feel you’ve been conned, call the police or Better Business Bureau. Remember: consumer fraud is a crime. And last but not least, remember that an offer that sounds too good to be true, probably is.