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Officials warn of more than dozen scams

Berenice Martinez, of the Illinois Attorney General's Office, speaks Monday at Ottawa City Hall about scams that target senior citizens. State Rep. Jerry Long, R-Streator, who helped arrange the presentation, looks on.
Berenice Martinez, of the Illinois Attorney General's Office, speaks Monday at Ottawa City Hall about scams that target senior citizens. State Rep. Jerry Long, R-Streator, who helped arrange the presentation, looks on.

"Criminals want one thing — information so they can get your money."

That was the words from Courtney Hedderman, of Illinois AARP, who, along with Berenice Martinez, of the Illinois Attorney General's Office, gave a presentation Monday at Ottawa City Hall on senior citizen scams.

The presentation was arranged by State Rep. Jerry Long, R-Streator and State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris.

"Many people in my district are older and have to live out their lives on what they have now. We have to protect their assets from the scam artists," Long noted.

The speakers said the simplest way to avoid being bilked over the phone, is to never furnish personal data, especially financial information, such as credit card numbers. They also noted government agencies never contact citizens by phone, but through mail.

If a person receives a suspicious call, the best response is to hang up, they urged.

Martinez went over the most-used scams:

— Phony phone calls from the "IRS" that say back taxes must immediately paid.

— Callers who claim a grandchild is in trouble and needs money.

— A letter or call saying the recipient must send money in order to collect prize winnings.

— A person posing as a repairman comes to your home, accepts payment ahead of time, then vanishes without doing the work. A variation on this con is for one supposed repairman to distract you, while his accomplice burglarizes your home.

— A scam artist pretends to be collecting for a charity.

— A con artist offers a free home, investment opportunities or mortgage foreclosure or refinancing help.

— A scam worker poses as the representative of a governmental agency, a utility, bank, police, a charitable group, etc., asking for personal information.

— Offers of unrealistically high returns on investments.

— An online romantic relationship is nurtured, then money is requested.

— You are promised big earnings from working at home, but must first make an investment.

— A free trial offer is made, but your credit card number is taken and you are actually billed.

— A scammer tells bereaved seniors their late spouse owed money.

— A con artist offers to fix your computer, but then proceeds to steal sensitive data.

The Illinois Attorney General's fraud hotline number is 800-243-0618.

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