After 5 months of seeking help and only finding dead ends, this senior "couple" came through the doors of my place of employment again looking for help. The woman, 82-slowly made her way through the doors with her walker, and her 87 year old male companion (not boyfriend :), followed closely behind her.
At first when she asked if we were the Better Business Bureau, I thought it would be a complaint against a business. When I told her we were not, she said "I need help, desperately." So I asked her what she needed help with. She went on to tell me how she was scammed out of $4,000. Read the story she told me and remind your elderly relatives and friends that any legitimate financial dealing would be sent via postal mail, not by phone or email.
Here is what she told me:
On June 22nd she received an official looking email from CitiBank. The e-mail indicated that her phone number (landline) was associated with some international charges (something about American children being held in Russia) to the tune of $6,000.00. In order for her to clear these charges, she needed to call a phone number immediately, which she did. She called the number and the person told her that they would settle these charges for $4,000, but she needed to do it now, while she was on the phone. The person instructed her to 4 local stores in which she needed to buy gift cards in certain denominations. I asked her if the woman on the phone knew her name, which she replied "no" to. What she said next made me sick. She told me that the woman on the phone told her she needed to act right that moment and that she would stay on the line with her the whole time. With this scammer on the line the whole time, she had her to drive to CVS and buy 4 $500 gift cards, which she did. She told her to not speak to anyone or tell them what she was doing, to look outside that no one was following her and after the transaction to scratch the back of the cards to provide her with the numbers. She did that. She then had her do the same at Walmart buying 2 $500 gift cards and giving her the numbers, then drive to Target -buying 2 $500 gift cards, giving her the numbers once more. And then she went to Dollar General. Dollar General was the only store to say they could not sell in those high denominations (good for them!). So after giving her the serial numbers for each of the cards, the elderly lady said to the woman on the phone... "I feel like this is a scam...is this a scam?" The woman hung up on her. She had been had. The credit card that she used to make these purchases was actually the card of her 87-year old friend. He had added her to his account so that if she ever found herself in need, she had a resource. Throughout her recounting of this story to me, she kept saying, "I can't stop throwing up, I'm so sick over this, I feel so stupid, I feel even worse because it's his account." I reassured her that this sort of thing happens to people all the time, and that I understood that she was taken advantage of in her older age. She doesn't understand the phishing schemes, or the scams that seem legit but aren't.
She came in with a stack of papers. Her police report, bank statements, letters from financial institutions. No help. The local bank that issued the credit card she used to make the purchases sent her to Mastercard. Mastercard sent her back to the bank. She gave me the letter from the bank (which also showed the 6/22 transactions) that indicated there was nothing they could do because it was her that made the purchases, not a mistake by a merchant. She told me that she is paying "interest only" payments on this to the tune of $178 a month. She is on social security. She will never dig out of this. I took a copy of her bank letter, her name and phone number and also gave her my card. I offered up, maybe just don't pay it? She said, "It will ruin our credit, and we also sometimes need to use the card to buy groceries or necessities when we run short." I told her I would try to make some calls for her, which I did. I called the Buffalo FBI - they said there is nothing they could do. I called the Dept. of State Division of Consumer Protection, and again, they stated there was nothing they could do. I called the Federal Trade Commission, nothing they could do. I called the Office of the Aging, nothing they could do. There is no fund to assist seniors who have been scammed. I will not be able to sleep knowing these two are out there, struggling to make that monthly interest-only payment, knowing they are living on a meager social security income. I am asking you to help me to help them. I know it happens every day, and it happens to a lot of people, but these are two seniors in our community that have nowhere to go for help. They came to me and I will help them. Will you?
Please give what you can, and if you can't give, please share, share, share!
Her debt is $4,000. I need to raise $4,000 for them. This could easily be my mother, my grandmother, my friend. It could be yours too. If Go Fund me isn't convenient, i am on Venmo at @Kelly-Rapone, or cash or check.. however we can get there for them is graciously appreciated!
Thank you for however you can help with this.
- Heather Robinson
- Linda Hulshoff
- Tricia Siebert
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