As I say in my talks with elders, their families, and professionals in the field, I propose there are 3 “R’s” of effective scam prevention: Recognize, Respond, and Reach Out. I want elders and those around them to be able to see these things coming from a mile away so they can stay safe from the predators. To that end, I am sharing with you below an example which illustrates the sketchy world of magazine subscription services.
Pictured below is a suspicious letter that was recently sent to my stepfather (Dead Giveaway for a Scam: The scammers choose you). Yes, even though he passed away almost a year ago this company just keeps sending him more scam bait! In it you can see how the letter creates a couple of enticing hooks for its intended target:
I researched the letter and the company that sent it via multiple websites. The company in question claims it has awarded over $4m dollars over the last few years, but it also has over 500 complaints registered with the Better Business Bureau. Read more about the company here.
Can’t you imagine someone getting hooked by this, thinking how great it would be to win $1.1 million dollars? The company even makes it seem more real by offering a 30 year annuity option or immediate lump sum payment, similar to how states structure lottery payouts. All of this, plus the phrase at the end encouraging people to consult with a financial advisor prior making a payout decision, is an effort to lend this sketchy sweepstakes an air of legitimacy.
Apparently what happens when a person tries to contact the company about the prize entry number is high-pressure, hard sell tactics trying to coerce them into giving the representative their checking account number (Dead Giveaway for a Scam: When someone asks for personal information) and then buy a bunch of magazines for several hundred dollars. Even though the company says “no purchase or payment required to enter or win,” many of which never stop being billed to the victim, even after repeated efforts to contact the company. All of this is perfectly legal, and a perfect example of a likely scam.
Remember, the first R of prevention is recognizing the scam coming your way by what the potential scammer is trying to get you to do, and by the emotions they are tugging on to get you to do it. Keep in mind the Dead Giveaways for a Scam and the emotional weapons for manipulation, what I call the Five Flags (As a reminder, the Five Flags are fear, loneliness, anger, greed/guilt, and sympathy). If you recognize it you can stop it in its tracks and keep yourself safe from crooks out to steal your money, and that’s my wish for you today and always.