Scams reported locallyGoodman says elderly should be vigilant
Washington Police Chief Greg Goodman said the elderly have to be especially vigilant to con artists, since the elderly are often the targets of scams.
According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, up to 80 percent of scam victims are over 65 years old. Goodman said that scammers perceive that the elderly are easier to persuade and coerce.
Goodman said the police had a problem last year with vacuum salesmen from Davenport. They worked with Kirby Vacuum, and they focused on selling vacuums to the elderly.
“They said they were very successful selling to the elderly in Washington,” Goodman said. “They wouldn’t leave a house for three hours. People felt they needed to purchase a vacuum to get them to leave.”
The city revoked Kirby Vacuum’s permit to sell door-to-door in Washington. The company will not be able to sell door-to-door in town until it meets with the city council.
“It’s important to know that door-to-door salesmen must have a permit with the city,” he said. “There are state requirements they have to meet. You can always ask to see their permit. If they don’t have a permit, or they’re overly aggressive, we want to know about it.”
Last July, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office investigated an asphalt scam in the county. Riverside residents called law enforcement about a group of people purporting to sell asphalt but who engaged in fraudulent business practices, such as starting to do the work before the buyer had agreed to the contract.
Phone scams target the elderly, too. Goodman said a common ruse is for the con artists to call an old person and pretend to be their grandson. The caller will claim to need money to get out of jail, and then tell the victim where to send the money.
“People in the area have been victimized by this, up to thousands of dollars,” he said. “When they (the victims) hear their grandson, they think it might be legitimate, and they’ll send the money. Once they send it, it’s gone.”
Another scam that Goodman has come across is one in which the scammer tells the target they have won a large prize, but in order to receive the prize they must pay the taxes on it first.
“If the deal is too good to be true, it is,” he said.
Goodman said not to give personal information over the phone. He said most companies do not need the kind of information scammers request.
“Don’t give out personal information and don’t feel pressured,” he advised. “If a door-to-door salesman is in your house and you’re done talking, tell them it’s time to leave. At that point it becomes trespassing. Some of these door-to-door salesmen are very direct and very intimidating.”
Goodman said that, if somebody comes to a person’s door and tells them that work needs to be done on their house, that person should be suspicious.
Con artists are difficult to catch since they move around frequently. Phone scams are also difficult to trade, Goodman said. He said the police department has worked with other law enforcement agencies to catch con artists.
“They’re very hard to catch,” he said. “They move around, change their phone numbers, change their M.O. That’s why you have to be so careful up front.”