Federal authorities in Minnesota on Wednesday announced the arrest of 60 people involved in duping elderly Americans out of more than $300 million.
The arrests came after a two-year investigation into a telemarketing ring that peddled fraudulent magazine subscriptions to tens of thousands of senior citizens in a dozen states. The scam involved dozens of sham companies and call centers, some of them based out of Minnesota.
There's a certain depravity assigned to those who victimize the vulnerable. Let's hope justice is served. Thumbs down.
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota offers these tips for handling telemarketer calls:
Take your time: If it is a good deal now, it will still be a good deal after you take a couple of days to think about it, research the company, and ask the advice of a trusted friend.
Don't take telemarketer claims at face value: Fraudulent telemarketing schemes will use deceptive sales tactics and might misrepresent the cost of a subscription or product. They may claim the offer comes with a free gift or additional perks that never materialize.
Be cautious and do your own research: Do not make a purchase until you have verified a company's existence and reliability. Investigate a company's reputation before doing business with it. Be particularly careful about providing your banking information or other personal information over the phone, especially if it's an unsolicited caller.
It's OK to hang up: If something seems off, if you're not interested in the offer, or if you feel pressure to make a hasty decision, hang up the phone and do not respond to future calls.
UMR: Small school, big numbers
The University of Minnesota Rochester, while small, is boasting some big numbers.
Despite the pandemic, UMR's student body grew to 954 this fall, an 11 percent increase over last year's enrollment. The health care-focused school's numbers were boosted by a freshman class of 242, the biggest such class in the school's history.
UMR's enrollment gains come well ahead of expectations. UMR had envisioned reaching 1,000 students by 2025. According to the university's strategic plan, the 1,000 benchmark was to trigger plans to build a campus in Rochester. But those plans have been paused due to COVID-19.
UMR's success can be attributed to its growing reputation for addressing the achievement gap and it's focus on health care, which is in short supply of workers.
Here's hoping that after the pandemic has lifted, a UMR campus might begin to rise in Southwest Rochester. Thumbs up.
Better the second time
Rochester didn't make the cut for Antewan Webber.
In 1998, Webber left Ashville, N.C., to play football with Rochester Community Technical College, but the culture shock was too much for him to deal with. Weber thought the city lacked diversity, and he grew tired of people trying to correct his grammar.
So, he left Rochester and went on to earn a degree in service management at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
Then he returned to Rochester, but instead of the gridiron, he was drawn to the barber's chair. When his business partner decided to move out of state, Webber bought the barber shop.
Today, Webber is known as a “man of the community,” and his diverse staff serves a diverse clientele. It's a dramatic change from his first experience in the city.
“It’s a great place, with great people," he said.