Wednesday, March 24, 2004

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Attorney General Greg Abbott Warns Seniors About Growing Scams

GEORGETOWN - Attorney General Greg Abbott today encouraged senior Texans to “Just Hang Up” on unsolicited telemarketing calls, a defense against scams and schemes that cost Texans millions of dollars.

Attorney General Abbott warned consumers about telephone pitches that are too good to be true, including growing bogus international lotteries & sweepstakes that promise consumers multi-million dollar prizes.

The goal of Attorney General Abbott’s campaign is to encourage Texans to “just hang up” on scam artists who use unconscionable tactics over the telephone to separate seniors from their life savings. Of particular concern are scams requiring the senior to wire money before collecting a bogus prize.

“Senior Texans grew up in a more trusting time, when people told the truth and made deals on a handshake,” said Attorney General Abbott. “But the devastating nature of today’s scams make it essential that seniors remember how easy it is to ‘just hang up’ on scam artists who try taking advantage of them. Hanging up is simple, effective, and it can save you thousands of dollars.”

Poster (PDF)
(English & Spanish)
Print Ad (PDF)
(English & Spanish)

Attorney General Abbott announced the “Just Hang Up” campaign with law enforcement and seniors organizations at a signing ceremony in Sun City, recommitting his office to support 112 Triad councils in Texas. Triad councils bring together seniors, sheriff’s offices and police departments throughout Texas to work together to educate seniors about consumer and crime issues.

Attorney General Abbott met with Willette Miller, 85, of Buchanan Dam. Ms. Miller lost approximately $84,000 to crooks who told her she had won a multi-million dollar prize in the Canadian lottery. Over the course of several months she wired numerous payments abroad, often in excess of $3,000 each. She was told the money would cover “fees” and “taxes” required before she could receive the prize.

Attorney General Abbott told the story of a senior from Austin who lost more than $30,000 in a sweepstakes scam. In addition to incessant calls, in just a few weeks she was bombarded with over 200 mail solicitations, many telling her she had won millions in other bogus lotteries.

Also present was retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Douglas P. Hyatt of Austin. Hyatt, 78, told the Attorney General about numerous calls he received from telemarketers asking him to wire $2,800 as “customs duty”on a $50,000 prize. Hyatt declined such offers, hung up on the repeated solicitations, and reported the obvious scam to authorities. Listen to actual conversation (MP3, about 1 MB)

“Lieutenant Colonel Hyatt is a great example of the common sense approach that is so effective in stopping the brazen conduct of scam artists,” said Attorney General Abbott. “Texans would do well to follow his example and the adage – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Since February of this year, Attorney General Abbott’s office has received reports from 31 seniors throughout Texas who collectively lost in excess of $150,000.

“Sadly, this figure represents only a fraction of the money lost in scams against seniors. Without a doubt many seniors are not reporting these scams out of embarrassment or because they don’t know where to go for help,” Attorney General Abbott said. “I assure seniors that there are many people who have been victimized. They should contact my office or local law enforcement immediately if someone tries to scam them in this manner.”

As part of the “Just Hang Up” effort, Attorney General Abbott unveiled a poster that his office is making available to senior advocates and the general public through his Web site. The poster features Willette Miller and highlights her ordeal at the hands of scam artists.

The posters are available online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or by calling the Attorney General’s hotline at 1-800-252-8011. Seniors can also call the hotline to report scams or to obtain additional information on how to spot common schemes.

Listen to actual conversation (MP3, about 1 MB)
Verbatim transcript of conversation (PDF, English & Spanish)
Just Hang Up print ad (PDF) English & Spanish
Just Hang Up poster (PDF) English & Spanish

View news release in Spanish