State officials are warning older Iowans and their families about deceptive telemarketing schemes. Linda Hildreth, with the Iowa Department on Aging, says many older Iowans who’ve been scammed out of money are too embarrassed or ashamed to let family members know. “A lot of older individuals can be isolated because Iowa is so rural, so when they do get somebody calling them on the phone, they’re kind of excited to have conversation,” Hildreth said. “And these (telemarketers) are trained. They know how to play on people’s sympathies and use whatever they’re so-called weaknesses or vulnerabilities are.” Some of the warning signs that an older person may be a fraud victim include; receiving a lot of junk mail for contests or sweepstakes, frequent calls from strangers asking for charitable contributions or if they’re receiving cheap items in the mail such as pens and pencils, small appliances, jewelry or beauty products. Hildreth encourages Iowans to contact her office if they need help with an elderly family member who may be targeted.
“If you suspect something, we’d rather have you call us and find out there’s nothing to it…but unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there who perpetrate on older victims and persons with disabilities,” Hildreth said. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller recently announced an agreement that prevents a Virginia based telemarketing company from calling Iowans. He said the company, called “Products At Work,” misrepresented how they would use the money collected from selling various products. In one recorded call, a person claiming to be a volunteer said 100% of the company’s proceeds benefit paraplegics and amputee victims. Miller said both claims weren’t entirely true.
“We advise older Iowans to be suspicious about unsolicited calls from charities or others. They shouldn’t be fooled by sympathetic names or stories,” Miller said. Records show a 71-year-old Floyd County woman with alzheimer’s disease placed at least 13 orders with “Products At Work” within two years – including five separate orders for wind chimes, spending more than a $1,000. An 83-year-old Keokuk County woman placed 12 separate orders, totaling nearly $800 within 15 months. And a 66-year-old Clayton County woman placed ten orders for nearly $500 in just over a year-and-a-half. For more information, surf to www.Aging.Iowa.gov., or call the Iowa Department on Aging at 515-725-3333.