Lt. Governor Bauer to hold Listening Sessions on Senior Fraud in Greenville, Rock Hill and Myrtle Beach
Tuesday July 8, 2008: Greenville S.C. 9:00–10:00 a.m. Greenville County Council Chambers
301 University Ridge
Wednesday July 9, 2008: Rock Hill S.C. 1:00–2:00 p.m. McBryde Hall at Winthrop University
Friday July 11, 2008: Myrtle Beach S.C. 10:00–11:00 a.m. Conference Center at the old Air Force Base at 950 Myers Avenue. We will be in Building 600, Room 601.
Families who have been harmed by scam artists have the opportunity to tell me their stories at the first of a series of statewide listening sessions in Greenville on July 8, where their cases will be assigned for follow up and resolution by the Lt. Governor’s Senior Fraud Task Force.
We want to hear from victims because it is important that their stories be heard.
We also want to look at these complaints as a coordinated effort, and ask the more than 60 Task Force entities to look for patterns that can be addressed systemically by South Carolina, with focused attention on how we can coordinate our official responses to these very real issues that hurt people.
Although each report chronicles an injury to an individual and a family, with attendant diminished financial independence and personal dignity, we must also understand that a public outrage has also been committed. Eventually, it may fall upon government – the taxpayers — to support senior adults who have been exploited by the unscrupulous and calculating theft of their resources.
That’s why the General Assembly asked my office to coordinate a campaign to shield our senior citizens from scammers who take what seniors have worked hard their entire lives to obtain.
Public agencies have been working hard on scams, but the coordination of their efforts can be improved. For example, a grandmother in one of our rural towns contacted her police department which taped a series of scam calls and traced them to an apartment in one of our larger cities. Law enforcement was frustrated because no overt crime had been finalized, although the intent was obvious.
Sharing information across jurisdictions about scam artists could have led to a knock on that apartment door by a municipal license inspector wondering why no business license had been purchased. The next visitor might be zoning enforcement asking why a business was operating out of a residential complex. Our Department of Revenue might drop off some tax forms. In the face of united and focused official attention, that scammer might have been persuaded to pack up and leave our state.
A pertinent question is when we identify scammers why don’t we make them buy the licenses, insurance, and bonds required of our legitimate business? Why should the con artists with the black hats skate by when our neighbors who treat their customers ethically willingly follow the law in all aspects?
To carry this white hat/black hat analogy one step further, why not create a system so that our citizens can tell which businesses to welcome and which activities to shun?
We are currently investigating a scam complaint from a trusting 85-year-old woman who consigned two automobiles without any paperwork, and now cannot get either her phone calls or the cars returned. Although this senior citizen has been exploited, it may be very difficult to prove that a law has been broken although the ethical lapse is glaring.
That is why I am proposing a Senior SAFE Business Network where businesses can join by formally adopting an ethical code for how they will treat their senior customers and agreeing to mediate any dispute at no cost to the consumer.
Seniors and their families will know which of their local merchants wears an ethical white hat. We will also have links that will allow consumers to determine if businesses are licensed.
We can put scammers out of business if we help the consumers understand who values an ethical relationship with them. Those who do not, the scammers, are of particular interest to the Lt. Governor’s Senior Fraud Task Force. We want them out of business, and out of our state.
You can help us by letting us know if you and your family encounter a scammer. I will be traveling the state to do a series of Listening Sessions where you can share your story with me. If you can’t make it to one of the Listening Sessions, you can call the Department of Consumer Affairs at 1-800-922-1594 or the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging at 1-800-868-9095. You may also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.