Safer Seniors Share Knowledge

Somebody else may have designs on your gold now that you are in you Golden Years. Studies show that individuals aged 60 and over are targeted more frequently by financial fraud and scams than other age groups.  Fraudsters target seniors because they think they are easier to confuse, and believe that elders are more trusting of others, making them more likely to fall for their con.  A recent MetLife Study found that in 2010, this age group lost nearly $3 billion through financial fraud, scams, and exploitation.  In fact, the Federal Trade Commission found that 80% of telemarketing scam victims are over the age of 60.

I had an experience last month that drove home the dangers seniors face concerning scammers.  I had set up a profile on a dating site that has a good reputation. It was the first time in a long time I had ventured into that jungle, and while I never enjoyed my forays in the past, I learned very quickly that the stakes had gone up since my last visit.  I wasn’t having much luck finding anyone interesting until I ran across the articulate and detailed profile of a tall, handsome, blond man calling himself something like Chris0123.

I can’t remember who made the first move–probably me–but soon we exchanged introductory messages.  Among other artful and perfectly plausible details, he told me he was Dutch, had moved to Lexington, KY to recover from his grief over his divorce, and was preparing to sell his fabric company and invest the money for his retirement.  A request for a brief story of my life followed along with an assurance that he definitely wanted to pursue a friendship with me.

At this time he told me his name was Weatherly.  “Very odd, I thought, “since the name on his profile is Chris…  Oh, well, maybe he was trying to avoid an ex. No red flag there, I guess.”

Our correspondence began to fill up with personal revelations about our trials and longings, but his responses reflected nothing of my disclosures or questions.  It was as if he hadn’t read what I had written. I chalked that up to a language barrier. Although I had visited the Netherlands in college and was amazed that the Dutch “man or woman in the street” spoke flawless English, I gave him some latitude for the grammar mistakes that were popping up more frequently, attributing them to the passionate energy driving his posts.

I was withholding final judgement, however, until we met face to face.  Weatherly seemed to take a lot of time to answer messages for a guy so infatuated with me, and why no effort to meet?  Lexington is only 1 ½ hours from here. We could have met in Frankfort in 45 minutes.

I finally smelled this rat after his final unresponsive reply to my most candid message to that point, revealing the timeline of a difficult childhood and miserable marriage.  His message was exuberant; he was sure I was the one for him, and he wanted to meet me–just as soon as he returned from a 3-week trip to Turkey to resolve an insurance issue surrounding the collapse of the building housing his fabric business.

Uh oh.  Where have I heard this before?

Weatherly–and his accomplices, probably–thought they had me right where they wanted me: giddy with anticipation and blinded by stars in my eyes.  All that was left to do was send the message from “Turkey” telling me needed:

  • Money for business expenses to tide him over until the insurance check cleared

OR

  • A bank account set up in my name to temporarily hold the insurance money

(money laundering)

OR

  • Something else done in order to rescue him

…and in my love-struck, vulnerable state of mind, I would give all I had to bring him back alive and into my arms.

Nope.  Not this little, old lady.  I reported him to the website, and his profile was gone in less than 24 hours.

This is a scam technique I learned about from presentations at TRIAD* from officers of the Crimes Against Seniors Unit, and a visit to Thrivers Info Friday from Assistant Attorney General of Kentucky, Don Rogers.  If not for the money- and heart-saving information they furnished I might well be one more poorer, emotionally traumatized senior victim of a well-crafted scam.

At Cornell Trace I have made a sustained effort to keep seniors informed of scams, scammer methods, and where to look for help when they suspect they are being scammed.  The Thrivers Info Friday meetings and flyers I distribute have generated plenty of conversations and spared a lot of heartache and loss, especially with impersonator scams like the IRS and stranded grandchild ones residents have told me about.  

So here is another reason to become a part of our caring and sharing community: share knowledge with neighbors who have similar concerns, and feel the power it generates!

*TRIAD is a grassroots coalition that brings police departments, the sheriff’s office, criminal justice practitioners, senior volunteer groups and senior service providers together for the primary purpose of identifying ways to reduce the criminal victimization of seniors.

Senior Independent Living Louisville