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Scam hits senior citizen

by Mark Vasto
Landmark reporter

Mary (not her real name), an elderly senior citizen of Platte City, was upset when she first heard the news that crooked telemarketers had gotten ahold of her bank number and were stealing money out of her account. Upset turned to relief, however, when the person on the other end of the phone said they could help her.

The man, who called himself Carl Watson from the Financial Outlook Company, said that all he needed was to verify her account number. He even offered to put her on the “no-call” list – for a small fee – to prevent any other unsavory telemarketers from calling her. She was happy to hear that she could be helped because only the day before she had placed a large deposit into her account. She readily turned over her account and credit card numbers.

Mary was getting scammed, and her daughter knew it.

“She is from a different generation,” she said. “They believe when someone tells you something, they are genuine and honest and they want to help you. (The scammers) sold her a bill of goods and she felt they had her best interests at heart.”

Luckily, Mary confided in her daughter and told her what had happened. The daughter sprung into action, canceling her credit card and switching her mother’s savings over to a new bank account. Despite the inconvenience of having to do these things, the family was happy that the crisis appeared to be over.

But it wasn’t.

The man started calling back; why did she cancel her account? Didn’t she know that he was only trying to help? The man became angry with Mary, demanding the new number. Soon after, a thickly-accented woman started to call her, asking for her account numbers. Frightened, Mary and her daughter turned to the Platte City police, providing them with a call back number “Carl” had given them.

Knowing that the situation would create “havoc” on the victim, Platte City Police Chief Joe McHale investigated the matter and learned that the calls were originating from somewhere in either upstate New York or the Canadian border. Unfortunately, in crimes such as these, perpetrated on local citizens from faraway places, the best Platte City can do is warn their constituents to never give personal information over the phone unless they are sure they are dealing with someone they know and trust.

For Mary, it hasn’t been easy. She has trouble sleeping at night, ruminating over the problem. Fearing financial ruin, every time the phone rings she begins to worry.

“It just upsets her so much,” her daughter said. “She’s worried sick.”

In the end, Mary had to change her phone number, in and unto itself a loss of some measure. She had used the same number for almost a half century, but because of “Carl Watson,” she had to change it, paying $41 in the process. Now she keeps a piece of paper with her phone number on it, taped to the phone receiver, just to remind her of it. True to form, and bloodthirsty for her money, the telemarketers called her right up until the morning the number was finally changed.

Mary may have learned her lesson, but each year nearly one out of six people in America fall victim to telemarketing scams according the Department of Justice. Nearly 80 percent of those victimized are senior citizens, who lose an estimated $40 billion per year due to fraud – money that could be spent on their enjoyment, healthcare, nursing services or passed on to future generations.

The American Association of Retired Persons recommends that people get return mailing addresses and phone numbers or ask for information through the mail before taking any telemarketing call seriously. Others just recommend that people simply hang up the phone.

In a moment of playful reflection, Mary’s daughter offered her idea for a solution.

“I'd like to knock these guys into their next lives.”


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