Cheryl Parson: Answering letters, just like Ann Landers used to do


By Cheryl Parson - Better Business Bureau

I grew up enjoying reading Ann Landers and Dear Abby. I wasn’t alone. The world’s most widely syndicated columnist, Ann Landers, appeared in 1,200 daily newspapers with 90 million readers.

For fun, I decided to write this column in the tradition of those advice columns. Hopefully you can take things from this column and apply them in terms of what may happen in your life.

Dear Cheryl,

I am a retiree and just received a scary phone call from a Lt. Dorothy Gomez of Texas, who said she is an agent with the Department of Social Security. She said, “We have suspended your Social Security number for fraudulent activity on your account. Please call this number…”. Social Security represents a major portion of my income, so I can’t afford having my account suspended. What should I do? Signed, Retired and Scared.

Dear Scared,

Social Security doesn’t make threatening phone calls stating your account or benefits will be terminated and won’t demand immediate action or payment. Never give out your personal information over the phone. Don’t verify it either. Social Security already has your number. If pressured, simply tell them you’ll contact Social Security directly to verify their phone call. Then hang up!

Dear Cheryl,

I’m feeling pretty good right now. I received an email saying I was one of 1,500 people selected to receive a $7,800 grant from the United States government for being a good citizen. It’s free, I won’t have to pay it back, and I can use it for whatever I like. I called a friend to tell her of my good fortune. She told me to contact you, saying, “The national debt is over $17 trillion. The government wants to tax you, not give you money!” Signed, Lucky Citizen.

Dear Lucky,

Unfortunately, your friend is right. Do not respond to the email. The federal government does not give out grants for being a good citizen. If you respond, you will be asked to send a claiming fee of just a couple hundred dollars. You’ll be required to submit your Social Security and bank account numbers, plus other personal information, giving everything they need to steal your identity.

Dear Cheryl,

I want to file a complaint against Western Union. Awhile back I got into an online “love relationship.” It took me some time to realize I was being scammed. I’m upset with Western Union because they should have told me it was a scam and refunded my money. Signed, Love Smacked.

Dear Love Smacked,

Once you sent the money, it was gone, and Western Union is not obligated to refund it. In any relationship, especially online, you must proceed with caution if asked to hand over money or personal information. You should immediately report the scam to the online dating website and the police.

Dear Cheryl,

I just got a phone call from Publishers Clearing House saying I’ve won $7000 a month for life. I don’t remember entering, but I sure can use the money. I told them I was busy, couldn’t talk and asked if I could call them back. Should I call back, or is this a trick? Signed Hopeful But Cautious

Dear Cautious,

You are smart to have checked first before answering. It’s a scam. When Publishers Clearing House starts promoting their sweepstakes, we at BBB start receiving questions from people who have gotten these calls. If you respond, you will be asked personal and financial information questions. Victims are instructed to go to Meijer or Walmart, purchase a prepaid gift card in a certain amount for associated fees, then call them with the numbers on the back. Once you do that, your money is gone!

By Cheryl Parson

Better Business Bureau

Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at

Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at

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