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Archive for Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Lawrence residents reporting suspicious telemarketing calls

April 6, 2005

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Sixty-three-year-old Lawrence resident Jane Ellison said she got a call Tuesday morning telling her she'd won $5,500.

The only thing she had to do to claim it, the voice on the other line said, was give her bank-account number and authorize having $290 taken from her account.

"I said, 'You've got to be kidding me,' and they slammed down the receiver on me," said Ellison, who lives at Vermont Towers, 1101 Vt. "I want everybody to know this scam is going on."

Ellison said she received a second, similar call by the end of the day and had made reports to the FBI and the Kansas Attorney General's consumer hot line.

At least one other Lawrence resident has reported a solicitation in recent days promising thousands of dollars in exchange for bank account information. A Lawrence Police spokesman said he hadn't heard widespread complaints about similar cases in recent days, but he warned residents to be cautious with telemarketers.

"The bottom line is that if it sounds too good to be true, it is," Sgt. Dan Ward said.

In fact, the Kansas Attorney General's Office warns consumers to just say "no" any time a telemarketer asks for payment up front to claim a gift or prize.

"They should, first of all, be leery of the call because there's no such thing as a free lunch," said Whitney Watson, a spokesman for Atty. Gen. Phill Kline. "If they feel they've been scammed, they should call the consumer hot line."

The consumer hot line number is (800) 432-2310.

Cathy Ball, 44, Lawrence, said she had received at least four phone calls in the past month from someone telling her she'd won an $8,000 government grant. The only requirements were to be an American citizen over age 16, to pay taxes and to have a checking account.

She said she told the first caller she didn't have a checking account. A second caller asked her if she could get a checking account. After that, the same company called her again and again, asking whether she had the checking account yet, she said.

So far, Ball hasn't given out any information.

"I'm still skeptical," Ball said. "The $8,000 sounds awful nice because I need a new car and I need my kitchen floor fixed. But at the same time, I don't want to open up an account and them come back later and zap me."

Kline's office lists the "government grant" scam as one of several common telemarketing scams. The money usually disappears quickly from the person's account, but instead of getting the grant the person receives a catalog of available grants.

A similar catalog of federal grants may be viewed for free online at http://www.gsa.gov/fdac.

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