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Trump 'fixer' Michael Cohen gets three years, and Trump calls him a liar. Also on the Thursday rundown: Higher smoking rates cause some states to fall in health rankings; and the Farm Bill helps wilderness areas.

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Tennesseeans Warned to Beware of Holiday Scams

According to AARP, one reason scammers prey on seniors is that they make twice as many purchases over the phone than other groups. (edemarco5/Twenty20)
According to AARP, one reason scammers prey on seniors is that they make twice as many purchases over the phone than other groups. (edemarco5/Twenty20)
November 19, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As the holidays approach, the Tennessee Department of Commerce warns buyers that if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Tennessee's high ranking for fraud and financial abuse complaints to the Federal Trade Commission has motivated local groups to come together to help prevent scams.

Kevin Walters, communications director at the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, said it's a real challenge.

"Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated. They are cunning and they're ruthless and, a lot of times, they're anonymous,” Walters said. “And they can use technology to cloak phone numbers to hide their location."

He said this year, cases of fraud and financial abuse are up more than 33 percent statewide.

Doing research on special offers and charitable groups is key, especially during the holiday season. Walters warned that scammers use these organizations as a cover to take advantage of a person's good nature - and it's okay to say "no" to giving your financial information to anyone over the phone.

"If someone's contacting you to get that information and you've never spoken to them before, and they're calling you out of the blue, again, that's a red flag that they're probably after more than just a donation to their charity,” he said. “They're probably after much more than that, and it could lead to some real problems down the road for you and your family."

In 2017, the FTC said Tennesseans filed more than 43,000 fraud reports, totaling losses of almost $14 million.

Walters added seniors and adults with disabilities are among the most vulnerable targets for scams. TDHS Adult Protective Services received more than 4,000 complaints of financial exploitation in the past year.

"So, the problem of fraud and identity theft is growing, across Tennessee and all segments of the population, in particular for elderly and vulnerable adults,” Walters said.

He said it's important to report scams to local law enforcement, and get information from the AARP Fraud Watch Network at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

Antionette Kerr, Public News Service - TN