Several weeks ago I wrote a column discussing the risks senior citizens face from scam artists. Almost one third of successful scams make senior citizens the victim, even though seniors represent only 12% of the population. Recent events have convinced me that I need to revisit this issue before moving on to other issues.
On October 7, 2015, CNN.com published a sobering article called “Driven to Death By Phone Scammers.” That article discussed the tragic circumstances of Albert Poland Jr., who took his own life to escape the incessant calls he received from scam artists. The scam is well known and all too successful; the promise of millions in prize money if Mr. Albert would just send $1500 for taxes.
Mr. Albert was not helpless, but he was vulnerable. He was 81 years old and experiencing the frailties of age. He had a strong family support system trying to protect him. However, when Mr. Albert sent $400, the hook was set. The calls increased, sometimes nearly 50 calls in one day.
Unable to bear the harassment, Mr. Poland took his life while still hoping he would be vindicated. He still expected $2 million dollars to arrive the next day and vindicate him.
Less than two weeks after that article was published, I was made aware of a local victim of this scam. A senior divorcee, she too has family support. The phone calls have been incessant, and even cancelling her phone has not ended the harassment. Recently, the scammers had a pizza delivered to her. When she answered the door, the pizza delivery man handed her a pizza and his phone . . . with a scam artist on the other end.
This community is fortunate to escape the turmoil that troubles so much of what we read about. However, make no mistake. We are not so lucky when it comes to this form of senior abuse. Indeed, it may even be that we are a target because of our community values. In my next article I will discuss how we can fight back.
© 2015 Steven J Wright