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As Savings Shrink, Scammers Kick into High Gear in WA

April 22, 2009

Bellevue, WA – One surefire way to keep money safe in this economy is to not give it to a crook. Today in Bellevue, about 300 people are learning how to avoid a whole new crop of scams that prey on financial fears. Crime prevention and legal experts say there's a lot to watch out for here in Washington, from identity theft to bogus foreclosure help.

Doug Shadel, who heads AARP Washington, says his group is hearing from more of its members who are being offered phony home refinancing deals.

"Someone will contact you and say, 'Because of the stimulus package, we can get you a one percent mortgage with no fees, and all you have to do is give us an 800 or a 1500 dollar deposit.' And that's the last you ever hear from them."

Shadel says many who are victimized by scammers would normally avoid such traps, but job and financial worries make them desperate enough to listen to the sales pitch.

"We teach people about how con artists use persuasion. And the main thing they do is, they try and move you out of the logical, reasoning part of your mind into emotion-based decisions. And the workshops really teach people how that operates, so they can defend against it."

Shadel says financial scammers are hard to catch – and even when they're found, the money is usually gone.

The seminar is sponsored jointly by AARP Washington, Microsoft and several state agencies, including the Attorney General's office and the Department of Financial Institutions. Called "Taking Charge in Tough Times," it will also be conducted on May 6th in Vancouver, and June 3rd in Spokane - and it is free.

Today's seminar is full but for the others or to learn more go to www.aarp.org/wa

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA