It was a couple of years ago. My mother, who lives a few minutes away called me because she had a technician from a local air-conditioning company at her house. He had been there to tune up her air conditioning system but in the process had discovered that “she needed a whole new system” at a projected cost of more than $4,000, and he wanted her to agree to it right then. I told her I’d be right over.
Every fiber in my being told me that somebody was trying to rip her off. They thought an 80-year-old widow was an easy mark. When I arrived, the hapless tech tried to explain to me that a five-year old compressor and condenser unit (the part that sits outside) was old and shot. I sent him on his way. What was true was that the system needed an $11 capacitor in the air handler (inside the house) so that the fan would start reliably. I ordered one online and installed it. The system has been good ever since.
Reaching for the upsell is a time-honored tradition for salespeople. But this salesperson was masquerading as a technician who my mother could trust to give her a reasonably impartial opinion about her system and what it needed. She did not in any way expect that he would pressure her to spend $4,000 on the spot. And, if I hadn’t gone right over, it’s quite possible she would have. I contemplated calling one agency or another and reporting the situation for quite a while, but eventually the matter slid off the back of my agenda of pressing issues. I wish it hadn’t.
Nobody wants to see each and every visit by a tradesman to an elderly person’s house put under a microscope. But Florida does have strong legal protections for seniors. Section 825.103 of Florida Statutes makes it a crime to use a position of trust to deprive a senior of money or property. Florida has several toll-free numbers when a senior needs help. One is 1-800-963-5337.
All Floridians deserve to be free from financial predators masquerading as their friends. Whether it’s insurance, auto repairs, tradespeople around the home, or high-pressure phone sales of vacation schemes, potions and lotions or even long-term care facilities, elderly Floridians are the most vulnerable population. Properly armed with information, seniors themselves can weed out most of the hucksters. But it’s also important for a senior to have a trusted friend or relative who can get between them and a potential advantage taker at a moment’s notice.