Thursday, October 28, 2004
Attorney General Abbott Urges Seniors To Just Hang Up On Fraudulent Telemarketing ScamsHOUSTON - Attorney General Greg Abbott today encouraged senior Texans to “Just Hang Up” on unsolicited telemarketing calls. Attorney General Abbott especially warned seniors about a growing number of telephone callers that promise multi-million dollar prizes from fake international lotteries, schemes that have cost Texans millions of dollars.
One solution is for Texans to “Just Hang Up” on unwanted callers who use unconscionable tactics to separate seniors from their life savings, the Attorney General said. The tactics include demanding money in advance as a requirement for collecting what turns out to be a non-existent prize.
“Senior Texans grew up in a more trusting time, when people told the truth and made deals on a handshake,” said Attorney General Abbott. “The devastating nature of today’s scams makes it essential that seniors remember how easy it is to ‘Just Hang Up’ on criminals who try to take advantage of them. Hanging up the phone is simple, effective, and it can save you thousands of dollars.”
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Attorney General Abbott was joined in Houston by two area residents who were targeted by scam artists.
Faye Needham of Humble said that earlier this year she almost lost $1,300 in a Canadian lottery scam. She told Attorney General Abbott that she received a call from a woman saying she won $1.3 million in the Canadian lottery. The 58-year-old, however, was asked to send $1,300 up front to pay taxes on her cash prize. She wired the money to Canada but, thankfully, the money was routed to New Mexico in error and she was one of the lucky few able to recover her funds.
Attorney General Abbott also heard from another resident from Humble. Seventy-two-year-old Don J. Wims said he received notice about five years ago that he won $425,000 in the El Gordo Lottery, based in Spain. Thinking that the prize was legitimate, Wims sent $1,800 abroad as taxes and handling fees on the prize. He told Attorney General Abbott that he never received the cash prize and never got his money back. Wims said he still receives similar calls and now simply hangs up. As recently as three weeks ago, Wims received a call from a scam artist advising him that he won $2.5 million in a contest.
Attorney General Abbott also told the story of Mrs. Willette Miller, an 85-year-old Texan who lost approximately $84,000 to crooks who told her she won a multi-million dollar prize in the Canadian lottery. Over the course of several months in 2002 and 2003, she wired numerous payments abroad, often in excess of $3,000.
Since February, Attorney General Abbott’s office has received reports from more than 100 seniors throughout Texas who collectively lost nearly $500,000.
“Sadly, this represents only a fraction of the money lost in scams against seniors. Too often, seniors are not reporting these scams out of embarrassment or because they don’t know where to go for help,” Attorney General Abbott said. “I’m asking all Texas seniors who have fallen prey to these scam artists to come forward and contact my office or local law enforcement.”
As part of the “Just Hang Up” effort, Attorney General Abbott developed a poster and newsletter that his office is making available through the attorney general’s website at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov. The poster and publication features Willette Miller and highlights her ordeal at the hands of scam artists.
Both items are available by calling the Consumer Protection hotline at 1-800-252-8011. Seniors can also call the hotline to report scams or to obtain additional information on how to spot common schemes.