The Judiciary Committee met Monday morning to hear presentations from the AARP.
The presenters discussed ways older West Virginians are losing money. The initial discussion was on auto renewal and continual service contracts. These deceptive practices cause families, especially the elderly, to lose money every year. The FTC is working to create new rules relating to auto renewal and continual service contracts and the AARP recommends the WV Legislature wait for the FTC’s rule-making to be complete before creating laws regulating within the state.
Scam and Fraud is another issue facing senior citizens in the state. In the US, $228 million a year is lost to scammers. Older individuals are frequently the target of scams. Several types of scams are used to defraud people including romance scams, text scams (smsfishing), phone call scams, sweepstakes, prize, and email scams.
These scams do happen here in West Virginia. In Huntington, there was a romance scam involving a “Nigerian Prince.” Another example is a woman from New York with no family who had moved to a rural northern state and was befriended by a younger couple who eventually moved in with her, stole her money and sold her items. The couple then drugged the woman and brought her to Charleston. Police found them and they are now serving time for their actions. With gift card scams, individuals are contacted with an urgent financial matter, like a utility cut off or a grandchild in trouble, and told the quickest way to address the issue is to buy gift cards and provide the card number over the phone which allows the scammer to get the funds.
Another scam is realtors getting the elderly to sign long-term listing agreements of 10 or more years and creating a lien on the homes allowing them to collect money from the elderly individual.
West Virginia already has more stringent laws than other states, however, more needs to be done to help stop this underreported crime. It’s important for individuals to know most providers will not text you through text, the Social Security office will never call you, and never click a link you don’t know.