Friday, October 2, 2015

Lies, Secrets, and Scams: How to Prevent Elder Abuse

To understand how Beth Baker, an independent, generally robust 87-year-old, got taken for $65,000 in less than one week last year, it’s important to know about her grandson, Will. Baker, a retired second-grade teacher living in National City, Calif., beams when she speaks of the 24-year-old, the eldest of her five grandkids. As a high school football player and later a U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduate, Will made his grandmother terribly proud. When, late last year, Will’s wife delivered Baker’s first great-grandchild, Baker was overjoyed. “Will is precious to me,” Baker says.

So when a man phoned one morning last December from an unfamiliar number, the news he delivered hit her like a sledgehammer.

“He said my grandson was in Peru and was in trouble there,” Baker recalls. Then he put another man briefly on the line. Thinking it sounded like Will, Baker anxiously said into the phone, ‘Will?’ ”

What Baker unwittingly did was provide the caller with her grandson’s actual name, which was swiftly woven into a story. The caller said that Will had been a guest at a wedding in Peru. While driving, he had been involved in an accident that injured a 7-year-old pedestrian. Then a caller claiming to be Will’s lawyer got on the line and said Will was in jail and needed money at once; there was no time to think or question. “And he said if I shared this story with anyone, there’d be trouble for my grandson,” Baker recalls.

Baker hadn’t seen Will for a while, but the tale seemed plausible to her.

So, shaken and scared, she followed the caller’s instructions without verifying the story with anyone in her family. She hung up, drove to her bank, withdrew $5,000 from savings, and bought 10 $500 Green Dot MoneyPak cards at a CVS and a Ralphs supermarket. The contact called back as promised, and Baker scratched the card backs and read him the numbers beneath. That was all he needed to get an almost untraceable $5,000 payment, ostensibly for Will’s legal fees.

The man called soon after to say the injured child had died. Will needed more money to avoid 10 to 20 years in prison. Again, the caller stressed urgency and secrecy. At his prompting, Baker withdrew $11,000, bought more MoneyPak cards, and waited for her phone to ring.

It did ring—again and again—each call detailing a new twist on Will’s story and yet another demand. Over five days Baker purchased 101 MoneyPak cards and sent $65,000—almost all of her liquid savings.

Baker hardly slept. She was shaky and nervous. She skipped a visit to her husband, in nursing care at a home for veterans. She lied to her son, Jim—Will’s father—about her activities. Once during a visit, Jim noticed that her thumbnail tip was black. He didn’t ask why for fear of embarrassing her. In retrospect, he says, he realized that “it was from scratching off all those Green Dot cards.”

When Baker applied at her local bank for a $14,000 loan against her paid-off home, she attracted the attention of a manager. With patient prompting, Baker finally confessed. The banker told her she was being scammed. They called Jim to confirm that Will was safe. “I was so relieved,” Baker recalls.

Jim Baker reported the crime to the San Diego County district attorney’s Elder Abuse Unit and fired off an angry letter to Green Dot. He remembers the incident with bitterness. “It made my mother question her own sanity and worth,” he says. “At her age that’s hard to get back.”  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Lies, Secrets, and Scams: How to Prevent Elder Abuse


Betty said...

I have heard of this scam. The scammers watch us on social media and learn about our families and then they start calling Grandma...

Alan said...

I heard the same. They watch videos on FB and listen to the voices so they can impersonate the grandkids.