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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Your recent piece on telephone scams aimed at seniors prompts me to share some ways of preventing being taken. After 34 years in enforcing consumer protection laws, now retired, I learned that there are two ways to avoid becoming the victim of a scam.

First, never contribute to a "charitable" organization over the telephone, even if you are familiar with the name. Ask that the caller send you a written solicitation. If they have your telephone number, they also have your address. Callers who decline to send me a written solicitation or insist on a telephone pledge find themselves talking into a dead line because I hang up.

Second, never buy anything by telephone, unless you dial the call. Whenever I receive a telephone solicitation, I tell the caller that I NEVER buy anything over the telephone -- and I never contribute in response to a telephoned solicitation for ANY charity. -- ALBERT F. LIMBERG, CONCORD, CALIF.

DEAR MR. LIMBERG: Thank you for a valuable clarification. And in addition, if the "charity caller" says that he or she is phoning because it saves the charity postage costs -- ignore it, and get the request in writing.

DEAR ABBY: In response to your column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Abby Takes Heat for Printing the Ten Commandments" -- let me offer this response.

Just think of all the readers you touched and informed with your column on the Ten Commandments. Bravo! And even the criticism was a learning experience for both you and your millions of readers. Mahatma Gandhi said it best: "Throughout my life I have gained more from my critic friends than from my admirers, especially when the criticism was made in a courteous and friendly manner."

So, Abby, keep on keeping on. Your "critic friends" are alert and concerned readers. As the cynic would say, "I don't know what you're doing wrong -- but keep it up!"


DEAR FATHER GUY: Thank you for the kind words. I was surprised by the amount of critical mail my column generated.

DEAR ABBY: Regarding your letter about the Ten Commandments: I am reminded of the church minister who told his deacon that someone had stolen his bicycle and he suspected that the thief was a member of his congregation.

The next Sunday he decided to preach a sermon about the Ten Commandments because he felt that when he got to the commandment that says, "Thou shalt not steal," the thief would be shamed into returning the bicycle.

The next Sunday, his topic was the Ten Commandments, but about halfway through his sermon, he abruptly switched his sermon to another subject.

Later the deacon asked him why he had changed his sermon. "Well," the minister said, "when I got to the commandment that says, 'Thou shall not commit adultery,' I remembered where I left my bicycle." -- DON MASSEY, LITTLE ELM, TEXAS

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