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Abney and Associates Blog Reviews: Forums focus on consumer fraud prevention

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Published on

http://www.timesargus.com/article/20130505/BUSINESS03/705059890/1006/BUSINESS …

http://www.timesargus.com/article/20130505/BUSINESS03/705059890/1006/BUSINESS

Muriel Sedergren said she’d receive three or four calls a week but knew enough never to bite on the caller’s news that she had won a big lottery prize.

“My first question is ‘what’s this going to cost me?’” Sedergren said.

She said the next sound was the click of the caller hanging up.

View Related Forum:
http://www.topix.com/forum/business/TQTP857OUOSOBGHUT

Unlike Sedergren, however, many Vermonters, especially seniors, fall prey to lottery and other scams, and wind up losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

The attorney general’s office and its Consumer Assistance Program, along with the University of Vermont, logged more than 1,700 scam complaints last year.

Also Read: http://abneyandassocia.livejournal.com/ and http://blogrr.net/tag/abney+associates/


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  • 1. Janet Murnane of the state’s ConsumerAssistance Program addresses an AARPforum on fraud prevention at theHoliday Inn in Rutland last week.Abney andAssociates BlogReviews: Forumsfocus on consumerfraud preventionAbney and AssociatesVisit us @ http://abneyassociates.org/
  • 2. http://www.timesargus.com/article/20130505/BUSINESS03/705059890/1006/BUSINESSMuriel Sedergren said she’d receive three or four calls a week but knew enough neverto bite on the caller’s news that she had won a big lottery prize.“My first question is ‘what’s this going to cost me?’” Sedergren said.She said the next sound was the click of the caller hanging up.Unlike Sedergren, however, many Vermonters, especially seniors, fall prey to lotteryand other scams, and wind up losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars.The attorney general’s office and its Consumer Assistance Program, along with theUniversity of Vermont, logged more than 1,700 scam complaints last year.
  • 3. http://www.timesargus.com/article/20130505/BUSINESS03/705059890/1006/BUSINESSIt’s the reason why AARP is holding forums around the state to educate Vermonters on how toprevent being a scam victim.The state’s list of scams closely tracks the Federal Trade Commission’s nationwide list, which hasexploded in recent years.“What we’ve learned is that there are so many more ways scammers reach us now,” JanetMurnane, who heads the Consumer Assistance Program, told a fraud prevention forum inRutland last week.“It’s not just mail and telephone calls any more,” she said. “Now we’re getting emails and peopleare getting texts and all kinds of other ways people are trying to contact you.”Those scams run the gamut from phishing and lottery scams to bogus computer tech supportand imposter scams. In all, the state compiled a list of the 10 top scams for 2012.
  • 4. http://www.timesargus.com/article/20130505/BUSINESS03/705059890/1006/BUSINESSWith 563 complaints, phishing topped the list. The scam attempts to steal sensitive personalinformation — bank account and Social Security numbers — with the scammer often posing as abank or credit card company.“My word of caution here is: Ignore unsolicited emails or texts or phone calls,” Murnane advisedthe audience.She told forum attendees that a bank will never make unsolicited requests for personalinformation.A scam that has increasingly caught the attention of law enforcement and consumer advocatesis the lottery or sweepstakes con.Murnane said many of those phone calls originate from Jamaica, which has an 876 area code.Whoever answers the phone is told they’ve won a large prize and only need to pay an up-frontfee to collect their prize.
  • 5. http://www.timesargus.com/article/20130505/BUSINESS03/705059890/1006/BUSINESSOnce a payment is made, usually by wire, the victim will receive another call asking for anadditional fee. If the victim refuses, Murnane said the calls can become threatening.By the time someone realizes they’ve been scammed, she said, there is little or no chance ofrecovering the funds. She urged anyone who sees the 876 area code on their caller ID not toanswer. She also warned that con artists can mask their true location by buying a number withany area code, including Vermont’s.She said FairPoint Communications, the state’s dominant phone company, has gone so far as towork with Jamaican authorities in attempt to shut down the boiler-room operations.One of the worst scams that preys on seniors is the imposter scam. The emailer or caller posesas a family member in trouble, urgently seeking cash. Sometimes the caller poses as a grandchildthat has gotten into an accident or is stranded in another country.
  • 6. http://www.timesargus.com/article/20130505/BUSINESS03/705059890/1006/BUSINESSThe con artist urges the victim not to tell other family members. Murnane said that’s a deadgiveaway it’s a scam.She said scammers are often armed with personal information that makes the story convincing.They use the Internet to cull personal information, including Facebook.“Scammers use the Internet to their advantage and we have to learn to use it to ours,” she said.“We have to learn to use the Internet to educate ourselves and to get information that will helpus.”In the bogus computer tech scam, the victim receives an unsolicited email or phone call warningthat their computer has been infected with a virus. The offer is made to remove the virus ormalware for a fee.Murnane said the real purpose is to gain access to your computer to steal personal information.She advised never to click links in unsolicited emails or give someone remote access to yourcomputer. The exception is when you’ve initiated contact with a reputable computer technician.
  • 7. http://www.timesargus.com/article/20130505/BUSINESS03/705059890/1006/BUSINESSDuring the two-hour forum, Murnane fielded a number of questions and commentsfrom the 65 people at the Holiday Inn.One woman said her experience had gotten so bad she’s afraid of using theInternet, even of sending emails.A man who owns his own business said he became suspicious when he was solicitedfor a listing in a California phone book.“If I have my business in Vermont, why would I want to have my number inCalifornia?” he said.Another person said he was contacted by a company claiming to be Publisher’sClearing House.
  • 8. http://www.timesargus.com/article/20130505/BUSINESS03/705059890/1006/BUSINESSMurnane said scammers often use official-looking emails with company logos toappear authentic.Greg Marchildon, AARP Vermont’s state director, cited several reasons why seniorsare targeted by con artists.Marchildon said as people age they tend to focus on the positive aspects of life andare more trusting. He also said aging can affect decision-making ability.“Obviously, consumer fraud is a huge and growing problem in Vermont and across thenation,” he said. “And scam artists and criminals in places like Jamaica are exploitingvulnerable older consumers and the best protection is education.”
  • 9. http://www.timesargus.com/article/20130505/BUSINESS03/705059890/1006/BUSINESSThe state’s top 10 scams and complaints in 2012:Phishing, 563 complaints; lottery/sweepstakes, 220; computer tech support, 95;imposter, 89; debt collection, 89; phony invoices, 87; security system, 76;telemarketing, 73; online advertising, 66; loan scams, 56.Murnane encouraged anyone who has been targeted by a scam to contactauthorities. If a transfer of money has been made, she said contact the bank or wiretransfer company immediately to stop the transaction.Two remaining forums will be held in St. Albans, May 29, and St. Johnsbury, May 30.