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Assistant attorney general warns seniors of scams

Thursday, October 31, 2002

The topic at the Salem Chamber of Commerce meeting Oct. 23 was consumer protection with a focus on senior citizen issues. Larry Crane, assistant attorney general, was one of the featured speakers warning citizens to be on alert for scams.

Crane's job is to give the public guidelines and rules to help them avoid becoming victims. He explained that about 40 percent of consumer fraud targets senior citizens.

He said the reason seniors often become victims is they were raised in a simpler time, when a deal was made with a handshake. Now he warns the elderly to live defensively.

He said it would be nice to be able to trust people, but that is simply not safe in these days and times.

He explained a misconception among the elderly is trusting others in the community simply because they are local. He suggested that when considering hiring a person for work to always get an estimate in writing to avoid litigation.

He explained another problem can be telemarketers. A program has been implemented named "Do Not Call." He said this program works and it's amazing how it reduces telephone calls. The cost is $5 a year.

He said often elderly suffer from hearing problems so they are easily roped into agreeing to purchases they do not comprehend.

Other scams to avoid are slamming and cramming. Slamming is when the phone service a customer uses is switched without the permission of the customer. Cramming is a service product charge on the phone bill the customer never agreed to.

The attorney general's office receives about 5,000 formal written complaints a year and about 50,000 phone calls a year on the consumer hotline.

Crane said the biggest job his office gets involved in is mediating between businesses and consumers. The common goal is to resolve issues before they result in litigation.

Crane met with the Fulton County Extension Office the following day to speak in more detail about senior citizen issues.

The second guest speaker was Barney Larry, vice president of Baxter Regional Medical Center. He addressed the chamber about upcoming fund-raisers.

Larry said certain campaign fund-raisers will also benefit Fulton County Hospital. They will receive 50 percent of the revenue generated. He said, "It's not how much you give, it's how much you support."

He said it is important to have good health care locally.

In other business, Hans Oliver, chamber president, reminded the public about the chamber awards banquet scheduled for Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the Orange Room at the NAEC building.

Ted and Darla York will be honored this year at the awards ceremony as the Fulton Farm Family of the Year.

Oliver said there have been over 100 visitors to the Tourist Information Center since its grand opening.

Travelers from Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina, New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, Mississippi, Illinois, Kentucky, California, Texas and Michigan have stopped by for information about the city.

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