In an era where scammers, unscrupulous contractors and con artists are working hard to defraud senior citizens and others, a kind heart or a smile isn’t going to help, Peggy Anastos of the state Division of Consumer Affairs told a group of 50 seniors at RiverWinds Thursday.
Slam down the phone, she said, shut the door, toss those too-good-to-be-true checks that come in the mail and delete those suspicious emails without even reading them.
“You need to protect yourself and close that door,” she said.
Nearly one in every eight calls to Consumer Affairs last year came from seniors—1,600 complaints in all—and while Anastos said the division does what it can to investigate and resolve those issues, education is just as important, and might stop some of those problems before they happen.
That’s where Consumer Affairs' new FedUp handbook and Thursday’s presentation come in.
The scams are nearly endless—bogus contractors, fake charities, telephone slammers—and they don’t stop.
“There’s no limit to how low people will go,” state Assistant Attorney General and former Consumer Affairs director Thomas Calcagni said. “These scams are evolving every day.”
One senior came prepared, bringing a bogus check that had been mailed to him as part of one such scam. Anastos waved it in front of the crowd, warning them to take a common-sense approach, especially when it comes to random checks with alleged winnings from foreign lotteries—lotteries that they never entered.
“Nobody out there is giving you anything,” she said. “It doesn’t work that way. All they want is that money.”
The ubiquity of scams, their seeming authenticity and the methods scammers will use make it tough, Anastos said.
“They’re good—they’re going to convince you,” she said.
And if they can’t do that, they’ll resort to a heavy offense.
“Don’t let these people threaten you,” Anastos said.
It’s not just limited to scammers or con artists, either, Anastos said. The same things can happen with unscrupulous or unlicensed contractors, shady travel agents and even doctors.
“They prey upon your trust,” Calcagni said. “It happens every day—you have to be careful.”
Marge Beekman of Stratford had just such an experience a few years ago, after getting new gutters put on her house. When problems developed, she called the contractor, who she said then got belligerent, abusive and tried to intimidate her into going away.
But a call to Consumer Affairs got her going in the process, which eventually ended with her getting a win in small claims court. Without Consumer Affairs’ help, she said, things wouldn’t have turned out as well.
“I was really, really pleased with them,” she said.