AARP and two state agencies will be holding a series of seminars around the state to alert older Iowans to some of the most common scams and how to avoid them.
Brad Anderson, AARP’s state director, says his wife recently got a phone call from a scammer, claiming her business had to pay a fine immediately. “She called the county attorney,” Anderson says. “Lo and behold, the county attorney said: ‘This is the third one of these we’ve heard today. This is a scam. You’re not being fined.'”
State Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen says the best way to defeat fraud is to prevent fraud. “We spend a lot of time trying to do investigations and gather the information that we need, but the reality is the best the success stories that we ever can tell are the frauds that we avoid,” Ommen says. “because some consumer had enough information, some investor had enough information.”
Officials from the Iowa Insurance Division will be part of the “Fraud Watch Tour” this fall. Ommen says one of the biggest red flags that you’re being targeted by a scam is when you’re pushed to make a decision immediately.
“Get a trusted advisor,” Ommen says. “You know, for those of you who are independent and make your own decisions in that regard, that’s good, that’s smart, that works, but for those of us like me, I need a trusted advisor — and I’m the insurance commissioner — because the world of investing can be complicated.”
Ommen is urging Iowans to educate themselves about scams and share that info with others. “Help your friends and your neighbors and your family really understand what is going on out there,” Ommen says, “because by your better equipping yourselves, you can help protect other people.”
Staff from the Consumer Protection Division of the Iowa Attorney General’s office are also part of the AARP’s training tour. Attorney General Tom Miller says what’s known as the Amazon scam is of great concern right now. It involves a message about a significant online purchase with a number to call.
“It’s a very elaborate scam and they spend some time with you because they have the potential of taking a lot of money,” Miller says.
An older Iowan nearly lost $20,000 to this scam, but called the attorney general’s office and got help in stopping the money transfer.
About 70 people attended the first “Fraud Watch” event in Des Moines this week. The seminars are free, but registration is required through AARP. The next events are in Dubuque and Waterloo on Wednesday, September 7. “Fraud Watch” seminars will also be held in Mason City, Indianola, Clarinda, Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Fort Dodge, Ames, Ottumwa, Burlington, Bettendorf and Marion.