Con Artist Caught in The Villages – Three Rules to Avoiding Elder Exploitation Scams
Just last month, a local man was arrested by the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office. According to The Villages-News, the man had a long history of scamming elderly residents. It seems there were 18 complaints filed against the man, Robert Wayne Williams. He pulled off his scams by posing as a reputable tree service provider with several assumed names. The exploitation spanned nearly eight years and included an arrest warrant in two other Florida counties – one for exploitation and one for drugs.
Apparently, like so many other con artists, this man would go around neighborhoods in The Villages, offering his services. These typically involved random odd jobs, tree cutting, sealing pavement, and so forth. And, as is common in these scams, he took money upfront and never came back.
It’s important to do everything you can to protect yourself from similar fraudsters. Residents should remember the following three simple rules when it comes to con artists.
1) Always check to see if the person has a business license and whether he or she can produce proof of insurance or bonding.
If any reputable contractor offers to do work for you, he will be more than happy to provide you with a copy of his business license, corporation ID number (if applicable), insurance information, and anything else that makes you more comfortable about hiring him to do the job. If not, say goodbye.
2) Never hire someone who solicits you.
This is often the quickest way to know there is a problem. Do good people occasionally come by in our time of need to help us? Sure. But it is rare that a complete stranger will show up on your doorstep and offer to fix something. Reputable businesses advertise, and they rely on word-of-mouth and excellent references. You would never hire an attorney who knocks on your door offering to handle your affairs, nor would you want to hire a physician who came to your house offering medical services. House repairs and other services are no different. Do not trust these people. At a minimum, tell them you are thankful for their kindness but you need to think about it. Get their name. If they are serious and reputable, they will happily wait. In the meantime, call an attorney and discuss the situation before you spend a penny.
3) If they rush, run.
Any business that tells you they need the money today in order to perform a service is lying. Many people have come to think of urgent “today-only” sales as just a common occurrence. Car dealers and mall stores use these tactics all the time. But this is an easy thing when you think of it. In a store, you came to them; they did not come to you. Second, what contractor can only do repairs today? Will that professional not be in business tomorrow? Will he not be able to work anymore? Any person who solicits and demands payment upfront and in a rush is almost certainly trying to rip you off.
Ultimately, if you suspect an attempt to exploit you or someone you love, it may be time to consult a local elder law attorney in The Villages who can help you protect your assets and prepare for your future. Reach out to the Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group for a consultation on your case.