They prey upon the elderly with slick sales pitches and shady opportunities. Illegal telemarketers often go to great lengths to make money off unsuspecting senior citizens.
A complaint filed in Long Beach led police to a widespread telemarketing fraud based in Canada. This particular operation involves the fraudulent use of the Publisher's Clearinghouse name.
The phone caller claims you've won a big prize, but first you must send them some money to claim the winnings.
"Over the last two years she's stating she lost between fifteen and twenty thousand dollars," said Long Beach detective Don Bass, who suspects there may be many more elderly residents losing money over the phone.
In this instance, the 80-year-old victim was told she'd won $50,000, but first must send in a $2,000 "duty tax" to claim the prize.
"She went to the bank to take the twenty two hundred dollars our of her account and the people at Hancock Bank advised her not to. I guess they thought something was up. They told her to come talk with us and verify it, which we did verify that it was a scam," Bass said.
Seniors attending the weekly art class at the Long Beach Senior Citizen Center had some strong opinions about fraudulent telemarketers.
"I think there should be some law against it. I think they should stop them from preying on elderly people," said Helen McKee of Waveland.
Woolmarket resident Patricia Thunquist says it's unfortunate that a few people would stoop so low as to prey on unsuspecting senior citizens.
"Some people don't care. They have no moral code. They don't care where they get their money from. That's the bottom line. They have no scruples," she said.
Helen McKee says she has a method of dealing with unwanted telephone solicitors.
"Well, I'm just really rude to them. Because it upsets me to drop what I'm doing to answer the phone and it be somebody, I tell them if I want their services I'll call them," McKee said.
There are legitimate telemarketing companies that conduct business over the phone. Unfortunately, there are an estimated 14,000 illegal telemarketing operations that defraud US citizens of some forty billion dollars each year. Surveys by the American Association of Retired Persons reveal that more than half the victims of telemarketing fraud are over age 50.
There are some things you can do to protect yourself from telemarketing fraud:
- Don't pay for any prize a caller claims you've won.
- Don't be intimidated by the caller.
- Don't give out your bank account number.
- And don't give out any credit care information.
The telemarketing operation that's fraudulently using the Publisher's Clearinghouse name is the subject of an ongoing investigation that involves both the FBI and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Investigators say thousands have already been defrauded by this single operation.
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