CONTACT: SCOTT HAUSER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0007; fax (319) 384-0024
UI professor warns to be watchful of senior scams during the holidays
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- All consumers, but especially older Americans, need
to be watchful that their spirit of giving doesn't get them caught in holiday
scams, says a University of Iowa expert on elderly consumers.
Catherine Cole, associate professor of marketing, says con artists sometimes
take advantage of the holiday spirit by preying on senior citizens with
appeals for phony charities or scams offering "special holiday"
"The appeals for charities goes up around Christmas and people
are in more of a giving mood," Cole says. "Older Americans are
especially vulnerable to being duped, and, unfortunately, Christmas can
be a good time to do that," Cole says.
Cole, an expert on how elderly Americans use consumer information, says
people should not be afraid to donate to charities during the holidays
or other times of the year. But she says consumers should be cautious if
they are dealing with organizations or businesses they are not sure about.
She offers some advice for consumers:
-- If you have any doubts, get more information from another source.
Call the area Better Business Bureau or the charity's headquarters. Legitimate
nonprofit organizations won't be afraid to provide financial information
-- Ask for written information that you can take the time to read and
understand before you make a decision.
-- Avoid offers that are only good if you sign up immediately. A legitimate
offer will provide the same deal regardless of when you make the purchase
or the donation.
-- Remember that Iowa law gives consumers three days to change their
minds if they decide against making a purchase.
Cole says scam artists often take advantage of senior citizens who process
information less quickly and less effectively; who are more trusting of
strangers; or who live alone.