ASHLAND We wanted to give our weekly shout out of thanks this week to some folks who really deserve it. They are the organizers of a very valuable seminar held last Friday aimed at educating area citizens on how to recognize scams.

The attendance at this event alone at the Bellefonte Pavilion tells us how needed this seminar was. Roughly 100 people showed up, which is an impressive turnout for an event like this. The FIVCO Elder Abuse Council in conjunction with AARP and Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital held the AARP Fraud Watch at the Bellefonte Pavilion to educate senior citizens on how to out-con the every day con-artist.

Charles Williams, a volunteer with AARP of Kentucky, said the top scams in Kentucky are debt collection, identity theft, and imposter scams. Bernard O'Nan, the District Manager with the Ashland Social Security Administration, made a presentation on scam awareness. O'Nan said that Social Security will never threaten anyone for the purposes of gathering information or call to tell individuals they'll face legal action if they fail to provide information.

It is of course a sad statement on our society when there are so many people out there who are willing to prey on others. Some other thoughts to be aware of from the FBI:

Here are some helpful tips, courtesy the FBI:

— Don’t buy from an unfamiliar company. Legitimate businesses understand that you want more information about their company and are happy to comply.

— Always ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity. If you get brochures about costly investments, ask someone whose financial advice you trust to review them.

— Always check out unfamiliar companies with your local consumer protection agency, Better Business Bureau, state attorney general, the National Fraud Information Center, or other watchdog groups. However, not all bad businesses can be identified through these organizations.

— Obtain a salesperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address, and business license number before you transact business. Some con artists give out false names, telephone numbers, addresses, and business license numbers—verify the accuracy of these items.

— Before you give money to a charity or make an investment, find out what percentage of the money is paid in commissions and what percentage actually goes to the charity or investment.

— Before you send money, ask yourself a simple question: “What guarantee do I really have that this solicitor will use my money in the manner we agreed upon?”

— Don’t pay in advance for services; pay only after they are delivered.

— Be wary of companies that want to send a messenger to your home to pick up money, claiming it is part of their service to you. In reality, they are taking your money without leaving any trace of who they are or where they can be reached.

— Always take your time making a decision. Legitimate companies won’t pressure you to make a snap decision.

— Don’t pay for a “free prize.” If a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating federal law.

— Be sure to talk over big investments offered by telephone salespeople with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor. It is never rude to wait and think about an offer.

— Never send money or give out personal information such as credit card numbers and expiration dates, bank account numbers, dates of birth, or social security numbers to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons.

— Be aware that your personal information is often brokered to telemarketers through third parties.

— If you have been victimized once, be wary of persons who call offering to help you recover your losses for a fee paid in advance.

— If you have information about a fraud, report it to state, local, or federal law enforcement agencies.

These are helpful tips that we can all share with our family members and friends. Following these basic steps and being on hyper alert for unexpected phone solicitations can go a long ways in avoiding the pain that comes with being victimized.

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