Jeanette A. Tucker | 6/9/2005 3:09:44 AM
"Predatory lenders exploit people who are in a bind," Dr. Jeanette Tucker said. "They particularly target low-income and under-educated people."
The LSU AgCenter family economics specialist was one of several presenters at Scam Jam Anti-fraud Workshops across the state sponsored by AARP Louisiana and several other Louisiana agencies and organizations.
Tucker said non-mortgage loans can have many problems – high interest, "packing" with insurance, other high-cost add-ons and fees and extra charges in lieu of interest.
Daryl Blacher, director of community service for AARP Louisiana, said the Scam Jam program is part of a national initiative to help senior citizens learn about scams and frauds and how to avoid them. The Louisiana association sponsored workshops in Monroe on June 2, Baton Rouge on June 3 and Kenner on June 4.
Blacher said the focus of the program is on predatory lending, but presentations included other areas of personal finance, including identity theft, payday lending and non-mortgage loans.
State AARP President Earl White of Lutcher said AARP brought together qualified people to address the issues.
People need to know what’s going on, he said, adding, "There will always be somebody who says ‘the deal was too good to pass up.’"
Event organizers and speakers agreed the problems of economic predators exist everywhere, but the elderly, along with young college students and military personnel, are frequent targets.
"People need to be informed," said Godfrey White, executive director of the governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs. "It’s okay to identify abuse and report it."
He said it’s important "to bring to communities the idea that we do have an active, supportive elderly protective service. We’d like to see Louisiana as senior friendly."
White also said he likes the idea of collaboration among the organizations and agencies that participated in the program.
"That’s what Louisiana needs to do," he said. "When we come together, we can be more effective."
"We want the folks that are here to go back to their friends, family and anyone that they know – to help them to prevent themselves from being involved in fraud, such as getting their identity stolen or have someone come and take their hard-earned money," Rafael Saddy, president of the Latin American Civic Association of Louisiana, said in Kenner.
Another participant in one of the meetings, Owen Cope of Baton Rouge, works with low-income advocates for Entergy. He was at the Baton Rouge event gathering information about predatory lending.
"We look at our customer as an overall person," Cope said. "People can pay us and pay for medicines . . . or pay predatory lenders."
He said Entergy is interested in helping people to be sure they can meet their normal obligations. "Older people have an ethic for paying their bills," he said.
Vera Blakes is with Workmanship Excellence Consulting in Baton Rouge and a former assistant secretary of the Louisiana Department of Social Services.
The community advocate said she’s concerned about the indigent, particularly concerning credit and payday loans.
"It’s a real problem," she said. "We need to educate people."
Other sponsors for the workshops included Entergy, the governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs, Latin American Civic Association of Louisiana, LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Attorney General’s Office and Living Faith Christian Center in Baton Rouge.
Topics of workshop sessions included identity theft, healthy credit, predatory mortgage lending, home repair fraud, payday lending and other popular frauds and scams.