My mom called me the other day and left a message on my phone. The matter she wanted to discuss sounded important, and she indicated she did not want to talk about it over the phone.
It concerned a letter she received in the mail. She wanted me to stop by the apartment and talk to her as soon as possible. I don’t know about you, but when I receive a message like that, no matter who it is from, I am going to call the person back immediately — which I did.
When Mom answered the phone, she was a little anxious. I was out of town and told her it would be later in the week until I could get by.
“What is this all about, Mom”?
“Well, I received a letter today and I won $2 million. All I have to do is send $20 for the processing fee, and then they send me my money.”
I can’t repeat verbatim the next 15 minutes of our conversation, but it is safe to say that I spent the remaining time on the phone trying to convince her that this was a scam. Mom, on the other hand, was convinced that this was the real deal. The letter appeared to be official; it was signed by an agent for the company, and it guaranteed Mom that she would receive her money once she mailed her $20. The actual amount was $2,997,500.
Mom was a millionaire, or at least she thought she was.
Later that evening, I called Mom and asked for some specifics about the letter. I typed a few keywords into Google, and viola — mountains of information started coming in about the scam. There was testimony after testimony from people who fell for this millionaire ruse. At first they were amusing, but then I began to realize the hurt, shame and anger that people felt from this deceiving experience. One person sent her $20 processing fee three times before realizing it was a scam. How unfortunate.
One might think, how dumb can a person be? I wish it were that simple. But it has nothing to do with how smart one may be.
Scammers prey on people’s emotions. Times still are tough, and many older adults worry every day about money and whether or not they will outlive their checking account. An official letter comes along and promises a “too good to be true” offer, and the rest is history. The only people making money from this whole deal are the scamming swindlers.
There are all types of scams out there. Recently, there have been reports of a new health-insurance scam related to the Affordable Health Care Act, or Obamacare. Scams like the letter Mom received have been in existence in one form or another for years. Phone scams and computer scams remain rampant.
The best advice I can give regarding scams is:
1. Give no personal information out over the phone.
2. If it is too good to be true, stay away from it and do not reply.
3. Always check with someone you trust before you take action regarding a letter, phone call or email that you have received. My mom could have easily sent her $20 processing fee to these thugs and I may never have known. Thankfully, she asked for my opinion.
The only reason there are so many scams out there today is because people keep falling for them. Don’t be the next victim.
DeLong is the executive director for The Suites at Station Exchange. Email him at Suites.StationExchange@gmail.com.