AARP offers advice for avoiding scams

Sweepstakes, loans, credit deals among common schemes

Posted: Sunday, August 06, 2000

The American Association for Retired People is trying to acquaint the elderly with the gist of telephone pitches in order to arm them against fraud.

``Watch the pitch,'' said Rita Hatch, coordinator of the AARP Information Center in Anchorage, which recently held a press conference on the subject.

Hatch said 90 percent of Americans have received mail or a telephone call telling them they have ``won a prize,'' and 53 percent have replied.

She gave examples of five fraudulent telephone pitches:

``You have won a car or a diamond necklace or a fabulous European vacation. All you have to do is purchase our vitamins.''

``I was really sorry to hear that you lost money in a telephone marketing scheme. All you have to do is give me your credit card number and I'll see you're credited for your loss.''

``Today's your lucky day! I am going to help you qualify for that loan you need. I will send a courier to pick up your first payment, because as soon as I get that, the sooner I can get started on your behalf.''

``I can remove all negative information on your credit card. There's just a small fee...''

``We have extended this amazing offer for just one more day. You have to pay for your four magazines before midnight tonight, but just give me your bank account number and I can process that right away for you.''

According to national figures, such scams remove $40 billion annually from the pockets and accounts of Americans.

``It's amazing to me, but there are people who actually listen'' to pitches such as these, Hatch said.

A sixth common scam invokes a positive buzz word, the name of ``the fire department.'' Typically, someone calls and says he or she is ``representing the fire department'' in a special fund raising push.

``They may be representing the fire department, but it usually gets only 5 percent of the money raised,'' Hatch said.

``The best thing to do is just say no to telemarketing. Just hang up,'' she advised.

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