A recent invitation to speak about fraud to the Senior Citizen Computer Club of Clinton County really hit home.
In 1992, shortly after my father died, my mother was the victim of fraudulent telemarketers — criminals at the other end of the phone.
Those kinds of frauds still exist, as well as many scams on the Internet.
My mother was smart, educated and well-traveled. But she was tricked and lied to by friendly callers sounding eager to help her win big prizes.
To increase her chances of winning, she bought dozens of pens, baseball caps saying “No to Drugs,” money clips and other useless items. This happened over and over, and she never won a thing.
Mom didn’t tell anyone what was happening, and she tried to stop.
But when she said she couldn’t spend any more, they said she had investments to liquidate. It frightened her to think they knew about her finances, and she gave in.
After almost a year, her apartment in Texas was filled with what she had ordered, and the calls were increasing.
She felt desperate. For our Christmas presents, she filled 19 shoe boxes with the stuff. Each of her seven children, her grandchildren and her sister and brother all got the same junk.
We thought she was crazy. That’s how she began to let her secret out.
PREVENTION IS KEY
The thieves came into Mom’s home through the telephone; now, it is more likely done through the Internet.
Much more information is available for consumers now than there was 20 years ago, easier ways to file complaints. And police and prosecutors have more experience with these kinds of cases.
Still, successful prosecution and restitution are rare.
Education and prevention are the keys.
The criminals are trained to come across as legitimate and trustworthy. Their goal is to get your money.