Senior citizen phone fraud combatted by AARP program

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new anti-fraud campaign aims to help older Americans do something that seems simple but often isn’t: Hang up the phone.
Often, senior citizens hesitate to hang up on telemarketers out to defraud them, said the American Association of Retired Persons, which launched a new phase of its fraud fighting campaign Wednesday.
The AARP plans to train people to hang up on telemarketers making suspicious offers and has a new set of public service announcements ready to run nationwide.
The group, which lobbies on behalf of senior citizens, urges people to get off the phone quickly. Research indicates that many older Americans are uncomfortable hanging up on someone, so the campaign will urge people to devise an exit line in advance.
Some ideas: “I’m just the housekeeper,” “They don’t live here anymore,” and “Thank you, I’m not interested.”
AARP research indicates that telemarketing victims, who are more likely to be over age 50, are not “lonely, isolated or confused.” Rather, most are well-educated, well-informed and socially active and have higher-than-average incomes.
Telemarketers managed to snag Betty Babcock, 75, the wife of former Montana Gov. Tim Babcock, who has become a spokeswoman for the AARP effort.
“A fraudulent telemarketer convinced me that I was going to win a fancy car as long as I sent him money first to cover taxes,” she said.
She sent in $2,500 to cover half the “taxes” on a new Lincoln before she discovered it was a scam.
She’s not alone, said Bridget Small, who is coordinating the campaign for the AARP.
Victims are “active and informed, but a lot of them are having trouble ending the call,” she said. “The longer they listen, the greater the chance they’ll get caught on the pitch.
“We’re urging people to end the call quickly,” she said. “Use whatever method is comfortable for you to get off the line.”
Telemarketing scams have included offers of phony prizes, illegal sweepstakes, sham investments and fake charities.