Friday, June 3, 2011

Beware of Scams

If you have elderly relatives, PLEASE read this and share the information with them for their own protection!

I received a phone call from an elderly Aunt this morning; she was crying and very upset. She said she was worried that she was breaking a confidence by calling me, but decided it was the best thing to do. The story she related is as follows . . . .

I just got a call from Tommy (our son, and her great-nephew) saying he was at a restaurant with some friends, last night, and when they left the restaurant, a drunk confronted them, a scuffle followed and the drunk fell to the sidewalk, fracturing his skull! Tommy said he had been arrested and needed $2500 for bail, and could she send the money? Tommy begged her to please NOT tell Mom & Dad what had happened. The more I thought about it the more I believed I needed to let you know about the situation...

My two aunts live next to each other in a senior apartment complex, when the call came in, both aunts were together in the one’s apartment. Understandably upset by the information she had just received, my aunt who received the call, tried to pass the telephone to my second aunt, but dropped the wireless receiver, causing the case to open and the batteries to fall out, ending the call abruptly.

A few moments later, the phone started to ring in my second aunt’s apartment, (NOTE a different telephone number) and it was the same caller. My second aunt was also convinced it was really her great-nephew, as he even referred to her as “Auntie Marge” a name only he uses. The story was the same. Wisely she said she would need time to get the money, but urged “him” to call his parents for help.

As you may have guessed the call was a complete lie, and an attempt to get money from two elderly, trusting widows. There was just enough credible information that even for a few moments, as she related the story to me, I wondered if the situation was true, however, upon retrospect, the information the caller used is mostly readily available via the internet, and from public records. As an aside; plug your name into the search engine of your choice and you will be surprised, and shocked by the amount of information available about you on the internet. This caller had also done some additional digging to determine that my two aunts lived next to each other – this was not just placing random calls and hoping to find a gullible person.

The lesson of this event is simply this: Safety extends to personal safety and even financial safety. Talk with your elderly relatives, and warn them that if they receive such a call, no matter how convincing the caller may sound (my aunts both completely believed the voice was that of our son) to NOT ever send money via wire or any other means until they have verified the story with others in the family.

As a follow up, we have contacted the local police and gave them all the information about this caller. Although neither of my aunts have caller-ID on their telephones, that information is still available from the phone company, so the police do have the number from where the calls were placed.

Be smart, be SAFE, never give personal information out to anyone you don’t know especially from unsolicited telephone callers, no matter how heart-rending the story may be.

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