by Barbara Parrott McGinity, LMSW
Last month’s column on the Grandparent Scam was originally written nearly 5 years ago but I repeated it because I still hear about the scam even today. What I did not expect was the number of calls from readers.
As with all of these columns, I give you my phone number because I welcome your calls. Your stories and experiences give me fresh examples of how scammers continue to target older adults. This column seems to really hit home as it has generated the greatest response to date.
While I love to hear from you, it has mixed results. Some people call to tell me they had a suspicious phone call, but did not respond. That gives me cause to cheer.
Regretfully, some people call because they have been victims and want to know if they can get their money returned. Sadly, the answer is no. Once you have sent that wire or given the Green Dot number over the phone, the money is almost immediately picked up by the criminals overseas. These calls make me sad and I realize the importance of educating people about how scams work.
How are we going to stop these scammers? One way is for you to share your experiences with others. When a scam story hits close to your own experience, tell people what made you suspicious and how you stopped yourself from being a victim.
Here are a couple of the stories I heard from callers. Maybe this incident or something similar happened to you. If so, cut this column out and share with friends, neighbors and family.
1) Mr. K called to tell me about an incident in the parking lot of a local grocery store. As he was getting out of his car, a woman drove up in a truck and said, “you sure are looking good since you got out of the hospital.” Ironically, he had been in the hospital a few weeks ago so he thought maybe he did just not remember her.
The conversation continued, but then quickly turned to her personal problems. Her husband had left her, she is taking care of her children, times are hard, and then she asked if he could help her out with a little money. He did not have any money with him but offered to buy her groceries. As they went into the store, he needed to go to customer service and told her to start shopping and he would catch up. At the customer service counter, he was told about people working the parking lot targeting older adults and asking for money. He went out the back door and drove off.
Luckily he was not a victim. But that is only because he did not have any cash with him at the moment, otherwise he might have given her a few dollars. And how long do you think it takes to find a senior citizen in a store parking lot that has recently been in the hospital? Probably not too long.
What is the lesson? Remember stranger danger!! Do not talk or give money to people you do not know, even if they say they know you! And never give money to anyone who comes up to you in the parking lot or store. Run away!!
2) Mrs. M called to share her story about the Publisher’s Clearinghouse call she received saying she had won alot of money. What caught her attention was they told her to go buy a Green Dot card. The Publisher’s Clearinghouse comes to you…they do not ask you to send them money.
The Green Dot card was new to her. But I hope you will read this and become very familiar with this card. Instead of sending people to Western Union to wire money, they have you go to the store and put money on a Green Dot card. Then you call them with the numbers found on the back. You can buy these green dot cards at nearly every checkout counter at the grocery store, drug store so they are very convenient. More importantly, the cashier is not trained to watch for potential fraud like the customer service staff are and they do not ask questions.
One of my favorite lines to seniors at presentations is to remember, you all have dollar signs over your head. They are coming after your real dollars and/or your healthcare dollars. Be safe, be smart, be cautious. Do not talk to strangers, do not let strangers in your home, do not wire money to anyone, do not answer your phone (use your answering machine), and please call someone to check it out BEFORE you act. My number is 713-341-6184 and I enjoy hearing from you.