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Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

LYNNE TOUS OF Loch Sheldrake speaks with Sullivan County Sheriff’s Deputy Luis Alvarez at a recent fraud prevention meeting at the Town of Callicoon Hall in Jeffersonville.

These Residents Know
How to Bust a Scam

By Ted Waddell
JEFFERSONVILLE — May 1, 2001 – Let’s make a deal. Send me a check (cash is okay), and you’ll make a lot of money.
Want to become an overnight millionaire by buying a bunch of discount stocks? What about a pile of unclaimed prize money or a real cheap trip to Paris? How about a handful of “Canadian gemstones” or tickets to a foreign lottery that are surefire winners?
No takers? Well, I’m going to pull your heartstrings and pluck your pockets with stories about little kids with leukemia, lost children or vets down on their luck.
Still can’t get you to fork over some cash? I’ll bet you can’t resist sending me some money to help out hardluck kids whose fathers were killed while on duty as cops.

A couple of weeks ago, fraudulent telemarketers using techniques mentioned above scammed two seniors from Foxcroft Village of Loch Sheldrake out of ten bucks apiece.
“I got a call about some kids whose fathers died, and sent in some money,” recalled Louise DeSimone of her recent encounter with a telemarketer. “He started off with 50 dollars, then he said to me ‘Can you give me 25?’ when I told him I didn’t have 50 dollars.
“So he said, ‘What about ten dollars?’ I don’t remember who I sent it to, but that was all I could afford. I didn’t get a thank you yet . . . I didn’t know if I was doing right or wrong.”
Lynne Tous also lives in Foxcroft Village and lost $10 in a telemarketing scam.
On April 6, she mailed a check to a telemarketer who said he was soliciting money for the “New York Fraternal Order of Police” to benefit children of law enforcement officers killed on duty.
“First they called me, then mailed me something,” she said. “I mailed them ten dollars, because that’s all they were going to get.”
On Monday, Corporal Luis Alvarez of the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department talked to about 40 people at the Jeffersonville Senior Citizen’s Center about telemarketing scams during a break in a defensive driving class taught by Frank Haskell of Jeffersonville.
After the session on scams, Alvarez checked “Pennies for Charity - Where Your Money Goes,” a list of legitimate charity organizations published by the NYS Dept. of Law & Charities Bureau to see if the “charity” Tous sent her money to was on the up and up.
It wasn’t.
“When I get home, I’m going to get my name off telemarketers’ lists and call the Attorney General’s Office,” said Tous.
Alvarez noted that telemarketing is an annual $40 billion nationwide business. A significant percentage is fraud.
“There are about 14,000 telemarketing scams going on in the United States right now,” he told the seniors.
The program of phone scams was put together by the NYS Attorney General’s Office and sponsored by the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department.
Alvarez showed a film titled “Don’t Fall for a Telephone Line,” a presentation by the AARP about telemarketing scams.
According to Alvarez, fraudulent telemarketers often take advantage of human traits such as greed, gullibility, goodness, hope and fear to take people for a humiliating financial ride.
Common scams and schemes to defraud: prize solicitations, sweepstakes and contests; prize “recoveries” (a sweepstakes company has “gone out of business”); charity and affinity scams; travel packages, bogus investment lures, “found” money, recurring frauds, 900# prefix scams, credit repairs, fake loans and recovery room operations.
“Recovery room operations are scams on scams,” said Alvarez. “You get scammed, and another fraudulent telemarketer calls up and says he can get your money back if you send him money. It’s a scam on a scam, and people fall for it.”
According to NYS Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, consumers frequently complain to his office about invasion of their privacy by telemarketers.
“Telemarketers are limited to calling potential customers between the hours of 8 a.m and 9 p.m., local time of the customer,” he said. “Now more than ever, consumers need to educate themselves in ways to avoid being scammed by con artists and dishonest businesses.”
Has Millie Spafford of Jeffersonville ever gotten calls from bogus telemarketers trying to get her to send them money for “stocks or something or other,” newspapers or the “State Troopers’ Children’s Fund or something?”
“Oh yes, but I just hang up,” she said.
And that, according to Alvarez, is the best advice of all.

If You Get Scammed, Call:

• Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department: 794-7100
• New York State Police: 292-6600
• Local Police Department (check your phone book)
• National Fraud Information Center: 1-800-876-7060
• NYS Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline: 1-800-771-7755. Their website: www.oag.
• To remove your name from consumer credit lists (provided to telemarketers by credit reporting agencies): 1-888-5OPT-OUT (567-8688).

How To Stop Fraud

• Beware of unsolicited phone offers – don’t be afraid to hang up on telemarketers who are rude or pushy.
• Resist high-pressure sales tactics. If something sounds too good to believe, it probably is.
• Keep records: when you receive an unwanted telemarketing call, ask for the name of the company that the telemarketer is calling for and the name of the caller. Record this information, along with the time/date of the call.
• Tell any unwanted telemarketer to put you on their “Do Not Call” list. Federal law requires most telemarketers to keep these lists and prohibits them from calling anyone on their list for at least 10 years.
• Contact the Attorney General’s Office if you believe a telemarketer has called you in violation of their “Do Not Call” list.
• Demand to be removed from telemarketers’ lists by writing to the Direct Marketing Association’s Telephone Preference Service, P.O. Box 9014, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014.
• Consider having your name unlisted (or unpublished) in the local telephone directory. Telemarketers make lists from this source of information.
• Consider restricting the use of shopper/discount cards issued by supermarkets and other stores. This information is often sold to marketers to track your buying habits.
• Consider getting Caller ID on your home phone. State law prohibits telemarketers from using devices to block identification information from appearing on a consumer’s Caller ID box.

(Information provided by the NYS Attorney General’s Office.)

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