1,000-plus Iowans attend ‘Stop the Scammers’ roadshows

Doug Ommen, Iowa Insurance commissioner, talks about scams hitting Iowans during the “Stop the Scammers Roadshow” held Monday, March 4, at the RiverCenter in downtown Davenport.  CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

More than 1,000 Iowa seniors are now equipped with information to help them avoid financial scams after a Stop the Scammers tour crisscrossed the state this spring to raise awareness.

“Scammers are adapting to the digital age we are all now living in, and Iowans need to arm themselves with real-world tips and tools to spot, prevent, and protect themselves from fraud,” said Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen.

The Iowa Department of Insurance and Financial Services joined forces with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office and Iowa AARP in the past few months to host a series of events across the state to raise awareness and help Iowans prevent and report fraud.  

One of those shows was held March 5 at the RiverCenter in downtown Davenport.

According to a study conducted by the AARP Public Policy Institute, con artists target people aged 60 and older, swindling Americans out of $28.3 billion each year. The tour was targeted towards older Iowans to help them understand the state resources that are available and provide them with financial literacy tips to prevent and report scams. 

Iowans who were unable to attend the tour can find more resources at the Fraud Fighters website, which covers topics such as Medicare and investment fraud.

At nearly every stop along the tour, attendees came forward to share with people in their communities about the scams they have encountered. “Scams and fraud can happen to anyone,”  Mr. Ommen added.  “The people who came forward to share their personal stories are brave, and doing a great service in helping spread awareness to other Iowans.”

Phil Brennan, a retired financial advisor stated, “I attended the Stop the Scammers session only eight days after being scammed myself.” 

He added: “It seemed to start so innocuously, I was signing on to the site of an investment account as I have done before. It came back that the account was locked due to a couple of attempts to access it by someone other than me. It then instructed me to call a number, supposedly their fraud department.” 

Mr. Brennan, who attended the Dubuque presentation, said “The presentation was so spot-on it floored me, honestly. If sharing my experience can help others down the road, I’d feel great about it.”

The Stop the Scammers roadshow made its way through 18 communities across Iowa, with the first event occurring in Des Moines on Feb. 20. Additional events were held in Ottumwa, Mt. Pleasant, Davenport, Coralville, Newton, Creston, Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Carroll, Ames, Fort Dodge, Mason City, Marshalltown, Waterloo, Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, and Johnston.

Attendees heard from Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen, Attorney General Brenna Bird, Investigator Al Perales, and local AARP volunteers.

“By raising awareness, we hope communities can build a culture of skepticism and vigilance, making it more difficult for scammers to succeed,” said Heather Kriener, financial literacy director at the Iowa Department of Insurance and Financial Services. “Our work is far from finished.  We will continue to find ways to help equip Iowans with the tools and information they need to protect their money and keep them safe.”

Iowans have a team of state and local agencies dedicated to fighting fraud. Knowing which scams to report to each agency is the first step. To become an Iowa Fraud Fighter or learn more, go here.

Some of the advice presented at the Davenport show included:

  • Always double check. If a person calls and wants money, hang up the phone and call a trusted advisor. He added that Iowans’ reputation for being nice people – called “Iowa nice” – is one of the reasons scammers target people in the state. Mr. Ommen said it’s OK to say no and hang up the phone.
  • Report scams. People can report scams by sending emails to [email protected]v or by calling (515) 281-5926 or (888) 777-4590.
  • Never judge a person’s integrity by the sound of his or her voice on the phone. Scammers know how to sound friendly in order to gain your trust.
  • Take your time. Take the time to research, get advice, and learn more about investing. 
  • Watch out for “reload” scams. If you lost money once, don’t let scammers trick you into trying to recoup the money.
  • Presenters also recommended that participants contact the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion –  and put a freeze on their credit. This will keep criminals from approving any new credit account in your name.

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