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Seniors often get swindled by scammers

Local residents reveal how they were conned by some businesses

A business charges a King City resident three times what the cost should have been for a new furnace.

A Summerfield woman forfeits her household furnishings that were supposed to be sold in an estate sale and pays the coordinator hundreds of dollars to boot.

A plumbing company replaces a King City couple's 10-year-old still-functioning hot water heater with a new one while the owner waits inside the house for a "repair" to be made and then can't get her old water heater back.

These are some examples of seniors being scammed, with two of the stories told at the June 15 King City City Council meeting.

Councilor Dick Winn relayed the story of a neighbor telling him after the fact that she paid $9,000 for a new furnace.

"It probably should have cost around $3,000," he said. "She said she didn't want to bother me and thought she could handle it herself."

A woman at the council meeting said that recently she was duped by a plumbing company after her hot water heater stopped working. She made an appointment for a repairman to come to check out the problem and left him alone in her garage.

An hour later, he knocked on her front door and said he had installed a new hot water heater. When she protested, he said his orders were to replace, not repair, the hot water heater.

Stuck with the new one, the woman asked how long it would take to get hot water, and the plumber said about an hour.

After three hours, when the woman still didn't have hot water, she called the plumbing company again, demanding that someone return that day and get to the heart of the problem, which turned out to be a circuit breaker issue.

The old hot water heater had been hauled away, but the company did reimburse her $200 - which was probably just enough to cover the electrician's bill.

The Summerfield woman who was the victim of an estate sale scam told the Regal Courier, "I got scammed in my 80s, but I had to give up pursuing the issue because it was making me sick."

After living on Bull Mountain for 20 years, the woman downsized and moved to Summerfield, planning to hold an estate sale for the remaining items in her former home. She called a number on a brochure promoting a business that coordinated estate sales for seniors.

"We met at my Bull Mountain house," she said. "I had a lot of nice furniture to sell. The sale was set for Friday and Saturday, and I went to the house two nights before it started. They had moved someone else's furniture in and pushed all my stuff to the back.

"The other woman's stuff had been advertised in the local paper but not mine, and mine didn't sell. I went over after the sale, and all of my household items had been moved to the three-car garage to be picked up by a group that helps disadvantaged teens. I ended up letting them take everything away."

The coordinator's bill was $1,335, and the homeowner had already paid her $110 before the sale. Despite the homeowner only earning $12.28 from the sale, she ended up paying the coordinator a total of $882.

"I shouldn't have paid her anything at all," she said. "She did not follow through and do what she said she would do, and she charged me for things she didn't do.

'It was quite traumatic for me. My family was upset too that I didn't wait for them to help me, but I guess I'm impatient, and I wanted to get it done. Seniors need an advocate."

The scamming of seniors is a subject that has been on Winn's mind for many years.

"My dad died in 1974 or '75, and my mother had been talked into an expensive insurance policy on her black-and-white television - $25 a month," he said. "She'd had it for three years before I knew about it. I dug into it and cancelled it. She got scared or frightened into buying an insurance policy because she felt protected by it.

"This is a continuing pattern I see around me among people I know. It especially is true of single, little old ladies.

'King City is a big plum hanging on a tree - there's easy pickings in our city. A realtor told a neighbor she needed a new roof and gutters, and the neighbor got a bid for $12,000, which is ridiculous."

Winn is frustrated when he sees relatives, friends and neighbors all around him being scammed.

"I tell my sister and daughter to invite me along when they go to buy a car," he said. "I would guide the conversation just by being there. People need to set their pride aside and ask for help. Ask someone who knows about the subject or is neutral. Be intelligent - get an expert or second opinion.

"I love doing something for someone and helping people - it's not a burden to me. It feels good to help - I'm available, but I have a hell of a time getting people to call me first.'

He added, 'I think these scam artists go to school to learn techniques to force people to act immediately instead of thinking things over."

So, for what it's worth, seniors should not be afraid to ask for help and should get a second opinion or take time to decide before they sign on the dotted line.