Thursday, December 04, 2008

Scam Warning

The gas station was busy when I pulled in, but a bay with the pump on the side I needed opened up. Gas was $1.75 per gallon and seemed like a real bargain. Exiting the gas station back to the highway was easy as if traffic stopped just so I could get on my way. The traffic was very light on the Pike. I was in a good mood. Not the I'm ecstatic to be going to the Mahket mood, but not dreading the journey either. These were all premonitions, but I missed the signs.

I yelled my familiar "I'm here!" as I barged into the Weebles house. Ma was in the kitchen cleaning up her breakfast dishes.

"Don't take your coat off," Ma said. "I'm ready."

Heard that a thousand times before and knew it would be another fifteen or twenty minutes before we left.

Dad greeted me with a very deep, depressive sigh. Lately, he's turned into Eeyore.

"How's it going?" I asked cheerfully.

He shook his head.

"I have big problems."

I thought don't we all.

"I need to talk to you."

"G'head," I said sitting down making myself comfortable. I didn't take off my jacket.

"Upstairs?" He motioned his head to the stairs leading to his office.

As I climbed the stairs, I was thinking this was our version of Maxwell Smart's Cone of Silence. We would be able to have a secret conversation away from Ma's ears. We could have had this conversation in the living room as Ma is as deaf as a haddock. I sat in the chair behind Dad's desk leaving him to sit in the subordinate position.

"What's up?"

"I got a phone call last night."

My mind raced through the handful of elderly relatives. I didn't recall hearing that an aunt or uncle was very ill.

"From Toronto," Dad continued. He was visibly upset.

How odd that Auntie Rose would leave the warm climate of the Islands to move her operation to freeze her assets off in Toronto. Then my heart froze. Instantly, I knew what he was going to tell me. Supposedly, the Grandson called saying he was in trouble in Toronto and needed money. I follow an Eldercare blog and read about this scam a month or two ago. Didn't give it much thought at the time. The it won't happen to us mentality.

"This is a scam. It's not him!"

"I don't know how to help him. I don't have the money."

"It's not him! It's a scammer!

He kept going on and on about how helpless he felt. How he was up sick all night worrying for The Boy and no way to help.

I wanted to shake Dad and slap him silly.

"You didn't give them any information? You didn't give him your bank account number?"


I breathed a sigh of relief that Dad's generation operated on a strict cash basis. They didn't believe in credit. Everything except their home was paid with cash on the barrel head.

I pulled out my cellphone.

"What are you doing?" Dad's voice rose in panic

"I'm calling Uncle Ted [Kennedy, Massachusetts Senior Senator] to see if he can get the State Department working on this. Who the hell do you think I'm calling? I'm calling The Brother."

"No! He said not to call his father!"

"It's not him!" Third base in the Abbott and Costello routine.

The phone rang a few times and the Brother picked up.

I asked if his son was traveling in Canada knowing what the answer was going to be. I explained why I was calling and hoped I sounded sane. When problems of this nature occur, one tends to get sucked into the OPD. You can't help it. It's a miasma that you breathe in and then it spreads through your body until you're the one acting like a weeble. I know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies! I just remember I kept repeating that I couldn't convince Dad this was a scam and had nothing to do with his Grandson.

"Put him on."

I passed my tiny phone to Dad. Dad once told me he felt as if the world was passing him by with all the changes in technology, he couldn't keep up. He kept moving the phone from his ear to his mouth to talk into it like a microphone.

"Just keep it next to your ear. He'll [The Brother] be able to hear you!"

Thank God for The Brother as he was able to convince Dad it was all a cruel hoax. Poor old guy felt pretty foolish. I told him it was very easy to get taken in especially where a loved one was concerned.

"Should it happen again, the first thing you need to do is call Your Son or me to verify."

He nodded his head.

Later after our trip to the Mahket, I told Ma about scammers calling posing as grandchildren. Because if Dad was vulnerable, Ma would be giving out state secrets.

As I was talking to her the phone rang and she answered. She seemed put out by the call.

"Who's on the phone?" I asked.

"Some man. I can hardly hear him. He's stupid."

"Then hang up!"

She obeyed and less than six second later the phone rang again.

I answered the phone and demanded the caller identify himself. All I could hear was a foreign speaker. The scammer alarm went off.

"Don't call this number again." I hung up.

Again the phone rang. I picked it up and immediately slammed the receiver home.

"Ma, if any of the grandchildren are in trouble, they aren't going to call here for help."

She acknowledged that fact.

So, a plea to all you out there reading this to alert your elders to scams such as the call from Toronto. Callers pose as a family member and not necessarily by name. Just this is your grandson or granddaughter. That's enough to panic anyone into not thinking straight especially if the call comes late at night. Or not asking the caller to identify him or herself. Or asking a question that only a family member would know. Like what happened at an event. Something an outsider couldn't possibly know. Remind your elders to never, ever give out personal information such as social security numbers, credit card or bank numbers. And not to give out family information such as addresses and phone numbers. Most important, to verify the phone call with their children.

I try to look at the humorous side of OPD only to keep myself from going off the deep end. It's frightening and sad to see once savvy parents become unable to see through some of the situations.

First thing tomorrow morning I'll be calling the telephone company on Dad's behalf to see if his phone service has caller ID. If not, I told him I was going to add it so his phone bill would be going up a few dollars more each month. He balked at first. Worried about the expense. I told him this was serious and if he couldn't afford the few dollars, I'd spring for it. As well as a phone with caller ID.

I'll have to prepare a telephone lesson. The old don't talk to strangers. If the call is from anonymous, unavailable, or they don't recognize the name or phone number, they aren't to answer the phone.

Help me, Lord.


Nutterone said...

Sadly the caller ID isn't worth it for this case alone though. It can't help with those numbers. Trust me. How sad. The lows that people will sink to.

Erica Vetsch said...

This is so sad. The Auntie Roses of the world will get theirs.