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Seniors hit hard by travel scams, BBB says

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ST. LOUIS — The Better Business Bureau’s newest Risk Report accommodates a warning for seniors. Scammers are discovering new methods to focus on them and getting extra of their cash within the course of.

The 2019 Risk Report says that studies to the BBB confirmed that seniors paid extra once they fell for a rip-off. On common, seniors paid round $150 greater than different age teams.

Plus, scammer methods are altering throughout COVID-19. Criminals utilizing the cellphone and social media are pretending to be authorities staff to supply COVID-19 testing kits and call tracing in trade for private info.

Last yr, the BBB discovered that seniors misplaced essentially the most cash to travel-related scams. This yr, holidays could also be on maintain, but it surely hasn’t stopped scammers from costing Missourians cash.

Royce Scott instructed the BBB that he felt his household was the sufferer of 1 such rip-off. He heard that Square One Development may assist him get out of a timeshare his household didn’t use anymore. He paid the corporate $9,000 with the expectation that it may finish the timeshare contract inside a yr, or he would get his a reimbursement.

RELATED: Missouri timeshare exit scams: easy methods to keep away from them

The BBB has nearly 50 buyer complaints towards that firm. Timeshare and timeshare exit corporations throughout the state have gathered hundreds extra complaints from sad clients.

When the I-Team interviewed Scott in July, Square One had instructed him it couldn’t do what he wished, and it didn’t provide to return his cash.

Chris Thetford with the BBB says individuals goal seniors for travel-related scams as a result of they typically pay for household journeys.

“It makes sense that those tend to hit older purchasers more than younger purchases because of the resources that they bring into the economy, to be able to afford that,” stated Thetford.

Other sorts of scams that focused seniors for essentially the most cash final yr had been dwelling enchancment scams and romance scams.

Home enchancment scams contain affords over the cellphone or on the door to carry out home repairs, like roofing or duct cleansing. Unscrupulous individuals provide to do the work for cash up entrance, after which they by no means end the work or do a poor job that wasn’t price the associated fee.

Romance scams typically happen over social media or courting apps. Scammers prey on individuals on the lookout for love, asking for cash or presents from individuals they by no means meet face-to-face primarily based on guarantees they’ll be collectively sometime.

Thetford says that the isolation and fear that many individuals are feeling now makes them weak, and scammers realize it.

“The fear element is a huge factor in the decisions that people make, and scammers are more than happy to take advantage of that,” stated Thetford. “We’re all doing things online in greater amounts of time than we’ve ever done them before, that proves to be fertile ground for people who want to take advantage of anyone who’s on those platforms.”

He added that holding seniors secure begins with dialog.

“Remember that communicating is a two way street. Partly by communicating what you understand is going on in the environment…about the different kinds of scams and how they impact people,” stated Thetford. “The other part of communication is listening, so listening to our family members as they tell us stories and they’re relating what they’re experiencing online or through phone calls, or however it is they’re being communicated with, so that we can then give them good information that helps protect them and protect their assets.”

Two months after the I-Team aired its story with Scott, Square One is providing Scott his a reimbursement. He already received himself out of his timeshare contract.

In a press release to five On Your Side, Square One proprietor LouAnn Reed wrote, “Since you indicated he has successfully been released from his Marriott timeshare contract we will be happy to refund his money.”

“Scammers don’t refund clients, we do, as our money back guarantee states,” she added.

The 2019 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report is out there on the BBB’s web site. To see particulars in regards to the sorts of scams that the BBB tracks and easy methods to keep away from them, try the Scam Studies web page on their web site.