2019-04-14 20:28:431 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
The reason I am a news/non-fiction writer is because the truth is often stranger than fiction, as they say, and often what I can report in the news is a better story than any fictional think I would create.
We often hear of phone scams, and pay some attention thinking it would never happen to us. But it can, and it did. My recently widowed 82-year-old father fell victim to a phone scam. I am hoping that by sharing our story that I can prevent others from falling victim to something similar.
My father now lives alone. He deals with some memory issues, so I check on him every day. I called him one day, and he told me he was going to be a millionaire in a few days. He repeated it several times. It didn't mean much to me at the time, but after repeating the story to my sister, she realized he had possibly fallen victim to a scam.
He does not live in a technical world. He rarely gets on the computer, does not carry a cell phone, didn't understand how to use the iPod or Fitbit we bought him, etc. Yet he's knowledgeable about things, as he reads three newspapers every day. We questioned him one day, and he knew exactly what a phishing scam was.
I called back to get more details of his newfound money. He told me a man was going to come to his house and pay him a couple million dollars. He just had to send him two $10,000 certified checks. I told him he was being scammed, and he didn't believe me. We went back and forth like this, and I was begging him to believe me, and he wouldn't.
Both my husband and my sister went over there separately to try to convince him. He was adamant that this was real. He had the two checks written out and ready to send. This is how close he came to losing $20,000.
Again, my father is not a technical person. This isn't something he fell victim to because he wasn't careful with his technology. This was someone who sought him out, and if all this is scaring you, that's good. It's meant to.
I alerted his financial advisor to what was going on. The fraud team with the company called, and they ticked off how you could tell it was a scam. Every single thing they mentioned, my father had written down in his notes.
This particular scam is run out of Jamaica. They sometimes read obituaries and prey on recent widows and widowers. They call and start by telling them they won the lottery and mention Publisher's Clearing House. Along with the millions they won, they are also told they won a white Mercedes Benz. But they need to pay taxes and/or fees on their winnings. They are sometimes told they need to make the payment "Walmart to Walmart. "
I did some checking on this particular scam after this. One of the more interesting people to get involved in this scam is William Webster. He's the only person to be the former director of both the FBI and the CIA. He put his FBI buddies on the case. After the scammer threatened physical harm, he had reason to fly to the U.S. and was arrested once he was on U.S. soil.
I also found out that one thing they do is use the victims to help launder the money. The person who you are sending the money to is often not the scammer but another victim. They think it's the lottery who has sent them the money. This is how they cross into money laundering.
My father put all his papers and the checks away while the fraud team was explaining the scam. Unfortunately, that was not the end of it. The scammers are persistent. They called back again and again every couple of minutes. My sister answered the phone every time and screamed at them to stop calling. It didn't matter. Eventually she took the phone off the hook.
The next day the scammers were still calling. My father wasn't speaking about the scammers, so we decided not to either, but we wondered. The next day we visited again, and we checked his bank account to see if anything had been cashed or sent yet. He had a $500 withdrawal that he doesn't remember making, and he doesn't have the $500 cash laying around.
The next day we went to his bank to see who took the $500 out. The teller remembers that it was my father and that he took out five $100 bills. We are sure he sent this money to the scammers and that after that they escalated the scam, knowing they had a "live one." And that's why they won't leave him alone.
We can't trust my father not to finish sending the $20,000 or to not send them more money. Worse yet, we know that scammers often sell their lists of "live ones." We are in the process of taking control of his money and are doing this with his approval.
The really sad thing is that my father still believes he will get this money and the new car if he sends $20,000. I can't convince him otherwise. The scammers were still calling. My father unplugged all his phones and undid something else in the process, so he lived with no phone, no Internet, and no TV for a few days.
I have arranged for him to switch his TVInternetphone provider and to also get a new number. Hopefully his phone will remain off until the new number is installed, and they'll never find him again.
This is a scary thing to happen to us, and it's reprehensible that we had to deal with it while also grieving my mother. But I am sharing this story to prevent it from happening to others, to prevent other vulnerable seniors from losing the money they worked their whole lives for, and to prevent other families from going through such a scare while also grieving.
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