Scammers target the elderly
By Annie Lane
Dear Annie: My 81-year-old mom and I live together. I work 52 hours a week, so she is home alone a lot. She does get picked up by friends a few times a week to play bingo.
But something serious has happened. A guy started an online chat with her on a “Words with Friends” game. She chatted back, and by the fourth chat he had asked for her for personal information such as her email address and phone number.
Now they text every day, and she thinks she’s in love with him. He’s supposed to be a military peacekeeper in Baghdad, who has a suitcase he found with $5 million in it. He asked her to pay a fee of $1,250 to have the suitcase sent to our home until he’s out of the military. She will not believe me when I tell her it’s a scammer.
She sent him the money last week. She only gets $1,200 a month from her Social Security.
She won’t Google the name of the person to whom she sent the money. Now he apparently needs $10,000 for attorney fees. I found the receipt in her room, and, guess what? It’s from Nigeria, not Iraq. I figured my mom knew better than this. She hasn’t even met the guy she’s been texting these past six weeks.
I don’t know what to do! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. — Concerned Daughter
Dear Concerned Daughter: It sounds like your mom is lonely, and going to bingo a few times a week is not enough human interaction for her. Look for local community resources for your mother. Reach out to some of her friends to see if there are other activities they might enjoy together.
You sound like a very hardworking daughter. Consider reconnecting with your mom, and taking a little time for yourself, by taking your mom to the theater or a comedy show — something that you both might enjoy.
However, you have a right to be concerned about her finances. Scams that prey upon the elderly are all too common. They target people who are looking for connection and purpose, which is what it sounds like your mother is craving. If she refuses to listen to you, reach out to the authorities, such as the Adult Protective Services. They provide help and advice for people who are being tricked out of their savings.
Dear Annie: Recently, you published a letter from “Bent But Not Broken in Missouri” who was unable to forgive her family for not supporting her and her ailing husband. Your advice to concentrate on her blessings and to find a support group was excellent, and I hope she listens to you.
In my 75 years of living experience, I have had ample opportunities for hindsight. And I’ve come to understand that people do themselves a tremendous disservice by assuming they know the whole situation when they can’t possibly know what is happening in another person’s life. We are never the only one experiencing difficulties and most people prefer privacy regarding trouble in their lives. I think “Bent” should consider her brother had issues preventing them from traveling of which she was unaware. She should remember the world does not revolve around just her and be happy her brother and his wife have, for whatever reason, now reached out to her.
I have cared for more that one ailing family member and can tell you that many people will say something wrong when trying to be helpful in difficult situations. It’s always best to smile and simply say, “Thank you.” Awkward situations create awkwardness, and generally people mean well. So I think she should also give her aunt the benefit of the doubt. Love is kind, forgiving and accepting, and we generally receive in kind what we give to others. My advice to her would be to try not to judge and she will be happier. — Happier in My Old Age
Dear Happier: Thank you for your wise perspective.