Yes, there are all kinds of people trying to get access to your pocket book, bank account, credit cards, and e-mail address. I feel rather foolish telling you this, but I have been the victim of several scams. I thought I was a fairly intelligent, astute, and cautious person, but I discovered that I am not!
When the phone rang early one morning, a man’s voice said, “I hate to tell you this, but I am in jail.” It sounded just like my grandson. “Where are you, Jay?” “I’m in Canada. I have been arrested for ice-fishing out of season and I need $3,000 to get out of jail.” I really didn’t suspect anything because Jay is an outdoor man who travels a lot and enjoys fishing and hiking and biking. I even called his mother (Jan) who lives with me and she didn’t suspect anything either. “Oh dear—how do I send you $3,000?” “They told me that you should go to the Wal-Mart business counter and ask for a money-gram and send it to me at the Wal-Mart here.”
So, Jan went with me to the bank where I withdrew $3,000 from my savings account and sent the money, which cost me an additional $60.00 for the transaction. I took a deep breath and went home, pretty upset with Jay, and wondered what would happen next.
The next morning the phone rang. “Hey! I have good news for you. The judge realized that I didn’t know about the laws related to ice-fishing, and he let me off and will return your money.” “Oh. That’s good. I am so happy.” “But now I have another problem: the lawyer who got me off has charged me $1,500.”
I talked with Jan, and after discussing the situation, we began to suspect that it was a scam. So she called Jay, which we should have done the day before, and he was at home in North Carolina! And yes, I felt like a fool.
I called one of the local TV stations and they came out and televised my story so it might be helpful to other people. I also reported it to the FBI, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Canadian Police.
The next scam came by way of an e-mail supposedly from Van Lynch: “Dear Beverly, I am in London for a meeting and my wallet has been stolen. Could you send me $1,800 so I can get home? I would appreciate it so much and I will repay you as soon as I get back.”
I happened to know that Van had been ill and I felt that she would not have been able to travel that far. So, of course I didn’t respond to that e-mail. Later I called Van; she said that everyone in her contact list had received the same message. I later learned that Chuck Brown had experienced a similar scam.
Then, a few weeks ago I checked my bank statement and discovered that $447 had been charged to my checking account. I called my banker immediately and she checked it out and discovered that it, too, was a scam. When she contacted the company, she was told that it was a legitimate withdrawal and they had a tape of my voice saying “Yes.” I knew without a doubt that I had not ordered anything on line, primarily because I don’t use my checking account to make a purchase of that size. She persisted calling the number and they finally told her that I was earmarked for a refund on July 23, and I was quite relieved! When it didn’t come, I gave them a call and they very graciously told me the same thing again, and again… But, you know what? Over two months later I still have not received a refund. I have been “HAD” again.
Editor’s note: The above situation occurred a few years ago, but it is worth sharing. Beverly’s experiences have become all too common for many people, but older adults are often seen as easy prey, thus making them victims of such crimes more frequently. To be less vulnerable to scams, I recommend the following actions:
Do not give your personal information (credit card number, bank account number, Social Security number, etc.) to people who call, claiming there is a problem with your account. They would already have that information. If you think there could be a problem, call your financial institution directly.
Do not pay for services in advance regardless of how reputable the salesman or the company may seem to be.
If you receive an e-mail link from an unknown source, do not open it. If you receive an e-mail message supposedly from someone you know, but it doesn’t seem “quite right” (like Beverly’s message from Van Lynch)—delete it.
Should you end up being the victim of a scam, report it to the local authorities and contact your bank and credit card companies immediately.
Safeguard yourself. Scammers are constantly finding new ways to take advantage of people—don’t become their next victim!