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From Lansing:a column by State Rep. Brad Jacobsen

Protecting residents from scams and fraud

October 03, 2012 - In a perfect world, Michigan residents wouldn't have to worry about scammers, phony charities, fake investment advisors, and other individuals and companies who attempt to mislead and rip off Michigan residents.

Sadly, these crimes happen every day and often it is seniors who are targeted by these criminals. It is important to be educated on what to watch out for and how to protect ourselves and our loved ones from these scams.

The Michigan Attorney General has a great program called the Senior Brigade which highlights potential scams and fraud that can befall residents.

The program offers a lot of valuable information that can help seniors avoid being scammed and left to deal with the aftermath.

Many seniors have had their identity stolen, which is a long, complicated process to recover from.

There are many scams that sound legitimate so it is important to never give out your personal information over the phone or email when the interaction is unsolicited.

Common scams include banks/credit cards calling to verify account information, credit card "fraud protection" offers, and offers to make lots of money by working from home.

The Attorney General's Office suggest seniors keep their guard up and be suspicious when contacted by a stranger, offered a great deal (especially if the offer will end soon), or are asked to disclose money or personal information before receiving the benefit.

Residents should always be skeptical of sweepstakes and home improvement and travel offers.

If anything seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Before signing up for anything, always look into the legitimacy of the company (or have a family member help) and remember, there can always be a catch to these free offers.

Seniors often have other individuals give aid or assist them and it's important to make sure none of these individuals are helping themselves to your hard-earned money.

To protect your money, put all financial instructions in writing and keep records of all transactions.

Ask someone you trust to review your financial accounts and agreements regularly.

Residents should never write blank checks, give account numbers or an ATM pin to strangers, and use direct deposit to receive checks. Most importantly, never sign anything you don't understand.

It's a dangerous world out there and I want to help keep our local residents, especially seniors, safe.

I encourage everyone to share these tips with your family and friends and take advantage of the Senior Brigade program and other consumer protection information that the Attorney General has available.

For more information visit www.seniorbrigade.com or www.michigan.gov/ag and choose senior protections.

Jacobsen is the state representative for the 46th District. He can be reached toll free at 855-REP-BRAD or BradJacobsen@house.mi.gov

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