QUESTION: In the past you have provided information on the Thousand Oaks Council on Aging monthly programs. Do you have any information about the December meeting?

ANSWER: Yes, I do. The speaker at the Dec. 7 meeting will be Det. Tim Lohman from the Ventura County Sheriff’s office.

The topic will be Fraud and Scams. Lohman will share ways the public can protect themselves against becoming victims and will provide resource information and printed material about current fraud trends. At the conclusion of the televised portion of the meeting, there will be a question-and-answer period.

If you have never attended one of these meetings I encourage you to do so. They are very informative and provide the public the opportunity to share concerns or suggestions during the public-comment period.

The meetings are held at 1 p.m. the first Wednesday of each month in the Board Room at the Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Free parking is available in the Civic Arts Plaza parking structure. The meetings are broadcast live on TOTV and on the city’s website at

QUESTION: I’m concerned about the number of appeals for money I receive in the mail. I’ve heard so much about scams that I hesitate to respond to any. How can I tell if they are legit?

ANSWER: This is a very timely question since we are entering the holiday season and many organizations are making their holiday appeals.

Even though our mailboxes contain more requests for our hard-earned dollars, that doesn’t mean all requests are scams.  Many legitimate organizations find mail solicitation an effective method of funding.

There are, however, a number of steps you should take before opening your heart and checkbook. Read the appeal thoroughly to make sure it clearly identifies the charity and the programs it serves. Is it really from the organization you think? Many scammers deliberately use a name similar to a well-known agency hoping you think you recognize the name and automatically respond.

Ask yourself, how does the charity use its funds? The majority of money collected should go directly to pay for the programs offered. Watch out for statements such as “all proceeds will go to the charity.” This can mean that money left after the fundraising expenses will go to the charity. Fundraising expenses can be very high depending on the type of event planned.

Don’t be overly influenced by stories or pictures in the literature by a celebrity making the sales pitch. Concentrate on the substance of the message. Do their goals and methods coincide with your beliefs?

It is wonderful to support worthwhile charities and it is sensible to do so with care. Always remember when making that contribution to do it with a check, never cash, and make the check payable to the charity itself never to the person making the request.

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