CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- Financial experts believe con artists swindle at least $3-billion dollars from 5 million older Americans every year. And state groups that fight fraud brought ideas on how to avoid becoming a victim to a Cedar Rapids event on Thursday.
The Iowa Fraud Fighters include the Iowa Insurance Commissioner, Attorney General and other state offices. And the event Thursday was a “Shield Your Savings” public education forum. Participants offered tips to a crowd of about 200. The ideas to avoid becoming a fraud victim include don’t be afraid to say no to callers and make sure you check out any potential investment plan with professional advisers. Another bit of advice is don’t be embarrassed to report fraud if you become a victim.
But one woman attending the event at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center had more than a passing interest in the financial advice.
Karla Sibert said she strongly suspects her elderly parents were bilked out of thousands of dollars for vitamin pills and nutritional supplements they didn’t need. And she came to the conference with proof of the problem — proof that actually filled the trunk of her car.
Sibert said her father is diagnosed with dementia and her mother was hospitalized earlier this month with serious health problems. While at their home to take care of business, she discovered boxes and boxes of supposed vitamin pills and diet products from the Leading Health Source of Las Vegas, Nevada.
She investigated further and found credit card charges adding up to more than $50,000 for all the pills she said her parents didn’t need. She said she called the credit card companies to talk about the charges and got eye opening information.
“They started telling me eight thousand dollars here, nine thousand dollars there — all in about a three to four month period of time,” Sibert said.
At the Fraud Fighter Forum, Sibert did end up with more than advice.
Al Perales, an investigator in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, heard her story and took a quick look at some of the financial documents. He gave Sibert an official complaint form to fill out to start a criminal investigation and promised her he’d follow up.
“She did take the right steps, she took notes she had all the statements and did her homework. She contacted the credit card companies … and we’ll work with her to get it resolved and ultimately get the money refunded back to her mother,” Perales said.
Perales said because Sibert has the power for attorney for her parents, that also will help in recovering the money spent on what she called wildly overpriced vitamin pills. This was the fifth stop for the Iowa Fraud Fighters around the state. Perales said new fraud cases don’t emerge at every one. But it does happen and did so again in Cedar Rapids.
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