Jim Zawlocki and Bret answering questions about scams and frauds.  Well, Jim is, at least.
 
Today we welcomed past District Governor (and president of the Northbrook Public Library District Board of Trustees) Carlos Frum.  We also saw some familiar faces with Jovan, Wendy, and Ed making an appearance.  
 
Deputy Chief Jim Zawlocki was our speaker today and he talked about how to avoid scams and frauds.  Jim told us that people lose around $40 billion each year to scam artists.  They generally target seniors because they tend to be more polite than younger people - they're reluctant to outright say 'no' and don't like to hang up on people because it's rude.  Seniors also have nest eggs saved up and are reluctant to report being fooled.  And seniors tend to be lonely - they may be widowed and with children who live far away or don't call often.  This makes them more susceptible to falling victim.  
 
Phone scams are very popular right now.  Current scenarios have the caller posing as IRS agents claiming unpaid taxes or as grandchildren needing bail money.  Whatever the pitch, we should never give out information over the phone.  If anything, have the caller state what information they have (and don't correct them when they're wrong).  Robo calls are also popular.  If you get one of these, hang up immediately.  Never touch any buttons - even if the message says that will remove you from their list.  
 
ID theft is the fastest growing scam segment.  9 million people fall victim to some form of ID theft each year.  This doesn't always happen over the phone, though.  We need to be cautious with who we give our credit card information to and ensure that our bank statements are shredded before we throw them out.  Yes, people will go through YOUR garbage looking for this stuff.  
 
Work at home scams typically involve upfront payments for greater rewards later.  Common themes are being a mystery shopper is a popular pitch which preys on people's enjoyment of shopping.  They pay an upfront fee for a training booklet and are told they could eventually be hired full time.  Of course, they never are.  Another scam is envelope stuffing, which often serves as a double scam.  People pay upfront for the stuffing supplies and the stuff they mail out further support the scam or another ponzi scheme.
 
When dealing with phone calls, beware of these phrases:
  • Act Now!
  • Free Gift!
  • Send money
  • Requests for your credit card information
  • Requests to buy a money or other gift card
  • Can't Miss Opportunity!
Never pay for 'prizes'.  If in doubt, you must hang up immediately.  These con artists are good at their job.  The longer you stay on the phone, the better their pitch sounds.  
 
Not all scams occur over the phone.  Local scams happen door to door - typically asking if some sort of home repair is needed.  Popular scams are for seal coating the drive way.  In addition to getting money for the job, the con artists also look for ways to enter your house - to use your bathroom or telephone.  While there, they'll case your house for future theft, or steal items laying about.  
 
Always get written estimates for any work proposed along with a list of references.  And of course, call those references!  
 
As a rule, if something seems too good to be true, it is.  You will remember entering sweepstakes or raffles.  It's OK to hang up or slam the door on these people.  Finally, when in doubt, call the police and report the situation - even if you don't fall for the pitch, others may.  You can help get these con artists off the streets.  
   
 

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