Con man fraudulently offers to keep Social Security recipient fr

Con man fraudulently offers to keep Social Security recipient from losing benefits

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By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

DANDRIDGE (WATE) - Social Security is a key source of income for millions of seniors.

For more than half of those aged 65 and over, the program provides 50% of their family income.

But with all the talk out of Washington about fiscal cliffs and federal cutbacks, con artists see an edge where they can scare seniors.

In Jefferson County, an 85-year-old received a letter claiming her Social Security was being cut.

When 6 On Your Side stopped by, Nell was doing some housecleaning. Her trash has been full of financial opportunities from companies offering sweepstakes.

Nell asked that we only use her first name in this report.

"Congratulations, you are one of our prize winners," one of the letters read.

"That's just an old thing that's come though the mail," Nell told us.

In some cases, she has sent them money.

At 85, Nell, a widow, lives alone, but her 75-year-old sister looks after her.

The other day Nell was encouraged to throw away hundreds of offers she accumulated over the course of a month.

She's responded to many of them.

"I give a little, but not much. Maybe $5, something like that," she said. "About once or twice a week."

Earlier this week, Nell received a letter threatening her Social Security benefits.

"It said I was too old. I was too old to draw and I'd lose my check," she said.

For a fee, Nell was told the fictitious company would make sure her checks continued.

Two days ago, she and her sister talked with their banker about the threat.

"We checked with it down at the bank," she said. "Said that was a scam."

John Bender is with ElderWatch at the East Tennessee Human Resource Agency (ETHRA).

He says criminals target people like Nell with letters and phone calls.

"No Social Security will be taken away. You will not lose your medicare benefits. The key is if you don't make the contract, do no give out personal information," Bender said.

In Nell's situation, the con men could easily have stolen her identity or diverted her monthly benefits, illegal practices we've reported before.

But they chose to steal her money because she responded one too many times to other fraudulent offers and unfortunately has thrown some of her money away.

But now she knows to throw the offers away.


If you have a consumer issue, call the 6 On Your Side Hotline at 865-633-5974 or email ddare@wate.com.

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