Normally, I’m a thoroughgoing lefty and totally against the death penalty, but on certain days, I could be talked into an exception for one special group: those who scam the elderly.
The very thought of it makes my blood boil and not just because I’m getting senior discounts these days. The idea of scamming people who sacrificed for us and are now in decline, to me, is unforgivable. Yet it’s so lucrative the Justice Department has an Elder Justice Initiative to combat it, and, according to The New York Times, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported “nearly $1 billion in losses for those 60 and older in 2020.” And it’s worse when it hits close to home.
For years, beginning in the early 2000s, my dad, retired from being a tax assessor for the State of California, would regularly complain about how scammers on the phone took him for an idiot. He felt insulted they thought he might fall for their transparent schemes. I was proud of his mental acumen. My father had always been a bright guy. He was the first in his family to get a college degree and become a professional. I was glad that as he aged, he was still with it, until that day came when he wasn’t.
Flash forward more than a decade later, and, even my intelligent dad got taken in by grifters. It’s a popular scam and worked like this. My dad got a call from someone claiming to be his grandson giving a sob story about how he got into a traffic accident in Mexico that was not his fault. Now, the “grandson” explained, the local corrupt mordida-loving policia had him locked up in some dirty Mexican jail filled with cucarachas and violent narcotraficantes. He explained he’d no hope of getting out unless Granddaddy could fork over 3,000 U.S. dollars ASAP. Then, for the pièce de résistance, the grandson begged his Granddaddy not to mention to his mom anything that might worry her needlessly. On hearing this ludicrous tale, my dad somehow bought it all.
Which is bad enough, but worse was yet to come. My old neighborhood in southeast Houston where my dad still lives has become majority Latino, so he drove to a nearby store that specializes in wiring money to Mexico. He told one of its clerks his grandson’s tale of woe, and right away the clerk was adamant that this smelled like a con job to him. So here was a man trying to set my dad straight, and how did Dad react? He got his back up and told the clerk he could damn well recognize his own grandson’s voice and didn’t need any of his help. In short, my dad, ignoring plentiful red flags, got scammed out of 3 Large.
Once home, he got another call from his “grandson,” thanking him for sending him the money, but then his grandchild explained that he just missed his flight, so Granddaddy, if you please, I need you to send more money so I can buy a new airline ticket.
Finally, my father realized he was being used as a long-distance ATM and that his “grandson” on the phone didn’t really sound much like his real grandson. He then informed his soon-to-be ex-grandchild that he was done with sending him money but that he could always call his mom if he wanted more.
Most of us erroneously believe we’re immune to such scams and laugh at the chucklehead who fall for them. Who answers emails from Nigerian princes, anyway? The truth is, we live in a largely unregulated capitalist society where we all walk around with huge targets on our back, especially online.
Be truthful now. How many of you have been scammed by some “special” sale or “free” introductory offer you forgot to rescind? Ever try to stop a gym membership? They’ve no trouble getting money out of your bank monthly, but request them to stop, and everyone you talk to has suddenly forgotten how to use their computers. — Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue
This editorial reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the Fort Worth Weekly. The Weekly welcomes all manner of political submissions. They will be edited for clarity and factuality. Please email Editor Anthony Mariani at email@example.com.