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Don't give out that information!

"Don't take candy from strangers!"

When we were children, our parents told us scary stories about bad people who might pretend to be nice but then try to hurt us. Our parents weren't intending to make us afraid. Those stories were necessary to warn us.

Unfortunately, the tables have turned. Now it's those aging parents who need to be warned about bad people who might pretend to be nice but then try to hurt them.

These stories are necessary to warn us.

Story 1: The Adult Child Who Needs Me

Nita got a call from her son in Paris. "Mom, I'm sick with a cold, and I got locked out of my apartment and my wallet's in there. It's so cold! I got a ticket and I need you to send me $500 right now."

"Son, are you okay?"

"Yes, mom, my voice is just messed up from this cold."

"Where do I send the money?"

So it begins.

Story 2: The Romance Scam

Steve met Anita on a dating site, and even though he only tried the site out of curiosity, Anita seems to be everything he's been missing since his wife passed six years ago. In some ways, this may be better; at least Anita says things to him he's never been told by anyone.

As an executive assistant for an attorney who travels extensively, Anita is rarely in the states so Steve still hasn't gotten to meet her in person, but they've connected so well that he's sure he'll pop the question soon. They've already talked about marriage plenty.

When she emails him in desperation after a tax fiasco threatens to take her summer home in Myrtle Beach, he heads to his banks to scrounge up $135,000 for the woman he loves--the woman whose name is about to disappear from the dating app, from social media, and from the universe--the woman who will assume a brand new identity for a new lonely man.

So it continues.

Story #3: The Gift Card Scam

Phyllis just wanted to talk to a person, not wait for an email representative to get back with her. Since she didn't find a phone number on the website, she went to Google to search for one.

She finally found a number of a service representative who could help her. He sounded foreign, but he talked her through installing a program on her computer, which made him sound very encouraging about her situation getting resolved.

She wasn't sure how it happened, but eventually they had opened her bank account and were inspecting it. And then, somehow, she made a mistake. She had accidentally taken money from him! She was so embarrassed, and he, horrified, explained that "his children wouldn't be able to eat unless she resolved the situation."

Rattled, she followed his instructions and drove to Walgreens to buy several gift cards amounting up to the $5,000 she had accidentally "stolen" from him. She still wasn't sure what had happened, but she was so ashamed and embarrassed she just wanted it to be over.

Shaking, she mechanically checked out without speaking to the cashier, who shook his head. This was not the first trembling old lady coming through buying gift cards, and certainly wouldn't be the last.

The stories could go on and on...

Unfortunately, deceivers aren't going anywhere. They're only getting worse. Recently I heard about a CEO getting an email from his CFO requesting for a transfer of a couple hundred thousand dollars.

He decided to step across the hall and speak to her before sending it--and she told him she hadn't sent that email.

The scammers are getting that sophisticated.

Another friend told me about an aged couple who came into their hometown credit union and requested a transfer for a large chunk of their life savings to be sent to someone in a different state.

The couple seemed distressed, but wouldn't speak about it with their trusted banker until the transaction was complete. By the time the banker realized it was a scam, the money was gone. The elderly couple just held each other and wept.

What's the takeaway?

  1. Never send money to someone you don't know well personally, and if you do know them, make sure they personally are the ones requesting it.

  2. Never allow anyone to talk you through installing a program on your computer unless you have dealt with them in the past or you trust them implicitly. Some programs can steal ALL your personal records, bank and tax info, and even family member's identities.

  3. Never make a large transfer of money without first talking it over with someone you trust who is in a position to protect you.

Vigilance is imperative. Patience is necessary. But the greatest of these is love. You need a loving advocate you won't be afraid to call right before you're about to click on an email link that looks too good (or too bad) to be true. (Spoiler: DON'T CLICK IT)

Don't be embarrassed. You'd be surprised the people you know who have fallen for scams. Rather than hiding in your shame, be proactive and let someone help you, whether a family member, a friend, or a trusted help like Cura for Care's care managers.

It's a scary thought. But sometimes the scary made-up stories can prepare us for when we're confronted with the real thing.

Don't take candy from strangers. And don't give them anything, either.



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