The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Robin L. Quillon

April 3, 2011

Beware! Scam artists are in bloom, too

— Are you aware that, according to the calendar, spring has sprung?

Where, may I ask, is the warm weather?

Please also be aware that as the weather warms, scam artists are thawing out from under the rocks where they live and again are preying on unsuspecting, trusting citizens.

Swindlers and their scams usually cheat people out of millions of dollars annually. And their main targets are our elderly.

Recently, we reported that police suspected scam artists were active in the New Florence area, picking their way through East and West Wheatfield townships.

State police in Indiana said that residents were being approached by suspicious individuals claiming they represented Kirby Sweeper Co. In each case, they offered to clean people’s homes for free.

They even displayed homemade name tags. 

Thankfully, homeowners became suspicious and called police. We congratulate those residents for doing exactly the right thing – calling the police!

For our readers with senior-citizen parents or other relatives living home alone, please advise them to be cautious and on the lookout for scam artists. Remind them of the old saying: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Tell them that no one from Zimbabwe is going to deposit millions of dollars in their bank accounts. I have to tell you, folks, I did not know there were so many multimillionaires in Zimbabwe who died without heirs.

Here is good advice I found on various sheriffs’ websites across the country regarding scam artists:

* Never give out a credit card number to a phone solicitor.

* Never send money as part of a chain letter.

* Never agree to home repairs that are quick, cheap or where they have to paid for up-front.

* Don’t trust strangers who offer instant cash. 

* Get more information before buying the “sure thing.”

* If you have to buy it “now or never,” choose never.

* Check charities before contributing; know where your money is going and how it will be spent. 

* Also, the sheriffs departments shared these popular scams we should be on the lookout for:

Bank examiner fraud: A so-called bank official asks for your help to catch a “dishonest” teller by asking you to withdraw money from your account and turn it over to him or her. He or she can then do an audit or check the serial numbers. You do it and you never see the “bank official” or your money again.

Pyramid scheme: Someone offers you a painless way to make money. You invest, and then you get others to invest, and they get others to invest, and so on.

Sometimes the initial investors are paid a small dividend to keep them happy. But when the pyramid crashes, the only one with all the money is the one at the top – and you can’t find him or her.

Work-at-home schemes: You’ve seen the ads: “Great income for performing unskilled tasks at home!” Jobs like stuffing envelopes emphasize easy work, convenience and high hourly pay. Usually, after you pay for start-up supplies and a how-to book to get you started, the market for your “service” usually dries up. You don’t get your investment money back.

The funeral chaser: Shortly after a relative dies, someone delivers to your door a product, such as a Bible, that the deceased allegedly ordered before his or her death. You may even get a bill for an expensive item and you may be requested to make the final few payments. This scam artist uses the newspaper obituaries to prey on the bereaved families.

You are not responsible for anyone else’s purchases. If the claim is legitimate, the estate will settle.

Enjoy the spring but remember to be cautious and on the lookout for con artists.

 

Robin L. Quillon is the publisher of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at rquillon@tribdem.com.

 

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