By RICHARD P. HOLM, MD
The phone rang, and I answered it because the call was from a nearby community. No big surprise that the caller was obviously not from anywhere near, and the caller was asking for a donation for some organization in which I had no interest. I said, in a kindly tone, “No thank you,” and hung up. They will never end the call. YOU MUST HANG UP.
Financial abuse by telephone or internet has been called “the crime of the 21st century.” People of all ages are at risk, but scammers commonly target the elderly. Those of us past 65 are more often home to answer the phone, are apt to stay on the line longer and are less likely to report a crime. Making all of this worse, telemarketing crime is challenging to prosecute and, therefore, inviting to criminals.
There are plenty of bad guys out there. The National Council on Aging has written a compendium of common fraudulent traps that can result from telephone calls or internet messages. Here are some:
• Callers may pose as Medicare representative to obtain your personal numbers for the purpose of billing Medicare for bogus services. Remember, U.S. Government agencies will NEVER initiate a call.
• Because of outrageous prices for drugs, people are lured to purchase less expensive prescriptions from internet and out-of-country pharmacies. Beware that doses of drugs may be different than desired, and sometimes unsafe substances are added.
• Callers may be selling false or dangerous anti-aging products and claim reduced wrinkles or bags under eyes. Don’t trust them. Talk to your doctor.
• Con-artists may promise to split a large sum of money with you, provided you first agree to send a “good faith” donation to help cover shipping costs. Don’t believe it.
• “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” Never give out the name of a family member on an unsolicited call. They usually ask you for money for a fake emergency or rescue. Always check by calling family first.
• Especially after a major disaster, callers ask for “rescue money” to help those harmed which, of course, goes to the scammers, not those in need.
• Fake investment plans are everywhere. Strangers calling or emailing you with a great investment opportunity, should not be trusted, especially if it sounds too good to be true.
Take home message: Don’t respond to calls or emails from strangers selling or pushing you into something. Don’t donate to causes that you didn’t initiate. Beware of scammers. In a kindly tone, say, “No thank you,” and JUST HANG UP.
Rick Holm is a physician from Brookings, S.D. and the author of “Life’s Final Season.” Follow The Prairie Doc Facebook page for free and easy access to the entire Prairie Doc library of educational videos, podcasts and blog, featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc streaming live most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central.