I am typically a pretty peaceful person, but the unadulterated rage that I have been feeling for the past 36 hours could really use an outlet, and that outlet would preferably be the face of the woman who tried to scam my nana out of $3,800 yesterday.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before- a woman or man calls an elderly person and says, “Grandma, I’m stuck in Mexico, my car broke down and I need $3,800 to get it fixed. Can you wire me the money? I’m not in a very good area and I am kind of scared.” If you’re like me, yes, of course you’ve heard this one before, or some variation close enough that you would recognize it if it happened to you. It’s a classic, preying on the kindness and compassion of a grandparent, banking on the fact that they will do whatever they need to do to ensure the safety of their precious grandchildren. It might not have reached the epic proportions of the Nigerian prince scam, but it’s common enough that you’ve probably heard tell of it. Here’s the thing though- we spend a significant amount of time on the ol’ interwebs, we’ve entertained ourselves for hours on snopes.com, and we are, as a group, pretty well informed due to the sheer volume of information at our fingertips. My nana watches the Food Network. How would she have ever heard about this? Does Sandra Lee do PSAs in between courses? I don’t think so. Though maybe she should. I need to call her people.
We always think these things are going to happen to somebody else, some nameless, faceless grandpa in Alabama or Arkansas or some other state that starts with an A (no offense intended to those in those states. I use them as examples because they are far away from me, not due to any preconceived ideas about their tendencies to fall for scams. And, I like alliteration). We think that the people in our lives would never fall for such shenanigans. But why do we think that? Isn’t it pretty presumptuous to think that those around us are immune, that they are as thoroughly informed as we are? On top of the anger I’ve been experiencing, I also feel really, really guilty. How could I have not told her about these things? Why did I assume that because I knew it, she did? What else haven’t I told her that could potentially harm her? The only reason the thief didn’t get her money is because the wonderful woman at Western Union stopped her and asked her to call and double check before she wired the money. Nana was sure the woman on the other end of the phone was my cousin Julie, so she called Julie’s house in Georgia, and of course, Julie was home, not in Mexico. Peggy at Western Union, I love you. I will be filling the in-boxes of every executive at Western Union to sing your praises as soon as this article is done.
Older people living on their own are prime targets for crooked people, or as I like to call them, total fucking assholes. Our grandparents’ generation was raised to be polite, which is why it is nearly impossible to get them to hang up on telemarketers during dinner, but also why they are easier to steamroll. They don’t want to seem rude or inhospitable. Also, they are often hesitant to admit when they feel they are being taken advantage of or if they have been scammed “because they are concerned that relatives may think the(y) no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.” (fbi.gov) We have a responsibility to our grandparents (or parents) who may not be as plugged in as we are. We have to make them aware of the potential dangers, and we have to do it now.
A few tips-
Come up with an easy to remember “safe word”(get your minds out of the gutter, we’re talking about grandparents here!)
This should be an agreed-upon word that must be used if ever calling with emergency circumstances, such as needing money or other financial help. Please don’t choose “Western Union” as your family’s safe word. This will keep nobody safe.
Go to this link – http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors – and review the laundry list of scams targeting the elderly. Print it out and give a copy to the older people in your life.
I had planned on doing a bullet list here, but when I started doing research, the sheer volume of scams was horrifying and the FBI does a much better job summarizing than I could ever hope to. This link will also confirm your fear that people are evil, just a heads up.
If at all possible, go give the older people in your life a hug. If not, call them and see how they are doing. Make sure they know that if they ever need anything, they can call you.
Make sure they know they can ask you for advice without judgment, that you won’t laugh at them for not knowing what we consider “common knowledge.” Give them the knowledge.
In conclusion, that bitch better hope I never find out who she is. Nobody, NOBODY messes with my Nana. Shit just got real.