Consumer Affairs Office offering to help seniors with unwanted mail
DOWNTOWN AKRON — The Summit County Consumer Affairs Office is offering to help seniors reduce their unwanted mail.
Many times excessive mail can be an indicator that an elderly adult is being targeted for scams, according to Consumer Affairs Office officials. Generally, included in their mail are fake checks, sweepstakes or lottery solicitations, requests for charitable donations, free prizes or vacation offers, help with mortgage or debt reduction, inheritance and investment deals, government look-a-like mailings on recording property deeds or warranty coverage for utility lines, and so on. Because mailing lists are bought and sold, the more information the senior provides, the more likely it is for that information to fall into the hands of a con artist, according to Consumer Affairs Office officials.
“Mailboxes of seniors are bombarded daily with different types of fraud schemes that appear to be legitimate but are not, and it has become very difficult to tell what is real or fake,” said Cynthia Sich, director of the Consumer Affairs Office. “To help prevent the loss of money to scammers, the office has introduced a new program, at no cost, that will assist seniors in reducing unwanted junk mail.”
According to Consumer Affairs Office officials, the following are steps any consumer can take to reduce their junk mail:
• Avoid contests that require you to fill out an entry form. These are primarily used to get names and addresses for sales and to sell as leads for other companies or charities.
• Whenever you sign up for a new service, subscribe to a magazine, fill out warranty information, participate in discount programs (grocery stores, airlines, hotels), order over telephone, by mail or Internet or make a donation, write on the invoice asking them not to sell or share your name and address.
• Complete “opt out” requests with your insurance company, bank and credit cards that you deal with on a regular basis. You can usually find this information included in your statements. If not, contact them and ask them not to share your personal information.
• To stop credit and insurance offers that are based on your credit reports, you can “opt out” by visiting www.optoutprescreen.com or calling 888-567-8688. This is the official Consumer Credit Reporting Industry website to accept and process requests from consumers to opt-out or opt-in of firm offers of credit and insurance. You can request your name be removed for five years or permanently.
• Register with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), which represents nearly 3,600 organizations, including most of the leaders in the direct marketing community. This gives you the power to manage offers such as credit, catalogs and magazines. To stop unwanted mail for three years, you can visit www.dmachoice.org or you can mail in your request, along with a $1 check or money order payable to DMA at: Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512. To remove the names of deceased individuals from marketing lists, DMA also offers a Deceased Do Not Contact List. You must sign up online at www.dmachoice.org and provide an email address.
• Avoid sending in product warranty cards. If you do, contact National Demographics & Lifestyles in writing, to be removed from lists generated from product warranty cards at: National Demographics, List Order Dept., 1621 18th St., No. 300, Denver, CO 80202.
Keep in mind that many mailing lists and marketing campaigns are prepared far in advance of the actual mailing, so it may take up to 12 weeks before you see a reduction in the amount of junk mail you receive, according to Consumer Affairs Office officials. If you still find a few stray pieces in your mailbox, contact the business that sent the solicitation and ask them to add you to their do not contact list and ask that they not share any of your information, according to Consumer Affairs Office officials.
For seniors and disabled residents of Summit County or their caregivers, the Consumer Affairs Office will help reduce unwanted mail. Collect your mail from solicitors, charities and others for one month and mail it or bring it to the Consumer Affairs Office, 175 S. Main St., Suite 209, in Downtown Akron. The office will personally write to each organization or business that sent junk mail and ask them to add you to their “do not contact” lists. The office also will assist individuals in signing up on DMA and opting out of credit and insurance offers with the credit reporting agencies. There is no fee for this service.
The Consumer Affairs Office reminds seniors that mail fraud schemes include solicitations or chain letters that ask for small dollar amounts. It is an easy way for con artists to get names, addresses and bank account information. Fraudsters will pass on personal information to others, leading to more solicitation attempts to swindle seniors out of money. Consumer Affairs Office officials advise seniors if they receive solicitations in the mail that are asking for money in exchange for gifts or winnings, or checks that require money to be wired, do not send money, but instead report the scam to the Consumer Affairs Office.
To contact the office, call 330-643-2879. For more information, visit www.co.summit.oh.us/conaffairs.htm.
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