Tuesday, 09 August 2022

Tompkins: Do your research, protect your finances

Fraud of one sort or another is in the headlines every week. Last week it was the senior paving scam. I recently visited the AARP Web site and learned quite a bit more about senior financial abuses, many of which go unnoticed because victims are too embarrassed, scared or intimidated to report it.


My advice to anyone considering risking any money in any type of financial situation is to thoroughly research the individual or company you are doing business with.


Unsolicited emails and phone calls are obvious scams. But what about someone who seems legitimate; he has an office, business cards, perhaps a secretary or two? Believe it or not, this is where it's easy to get scammed! Don’t just go by fancy certificates on their walls; check to see if they are actually members of the associations they claim to be part of. Do the “associations” even exist at all?


Look online for records of other consumers’ experiences. If you notice that the person seems to have records of many businesses in many locations, don’t assume that the businesses are all currently in successful operation. Speaking from personal experience, this has indicated that the businessman had many troubles in the various locations, and had to close businesses and frequently relocate.


Don’t be fooled by a businessman’s fancy possessions, exciting promises or big eager smile. Read between the lines, ask around, examine the fine print, bring a witness with you. If it seems like it’s too good to be true, it probably is.


If you have been a victim of financial abuses, or know someone who has been victimized, remember that the district attorney has special fraud investigators to assist you. In Lake County these people are passionate and dedicated to bringing criminals to justice.


The State of California also encourages consumers to contact them with complaints. Reputable associations like the National Ethics Bureau appreciate knowing if one of their members has acted unprofessionally. Even local government officials can be helpful in your quest for justice.


If enough people speak up, a track record builds up, and the perpetrator has less of a chance to get away with abusing future victims.


Protect yourself. In so doing, you help protect us all.


Gale Tompkins lives in Kelseyville.


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