Strangers in our midst


The phone rang. I looked at my Sweet Al, he glanced at our son and our son stared at me.

I said, “Someone get the phone. I hope it’s not one of those telemarketers.”

Our son shook his head and said, “It’s not for me.” He looked at his dad, who picked up the receiver and said, “Hello, this is Al.” Al became friends with a stranger.

We were ignoring scam artists and telemarketers by not answering the phone. Calls from Last Warranty, Windshield Repair to Policemen for Kids, somebody sold our name to the world. Now everyone is our best friend and calls us daily and asks for us by our first name.

We listened to the phone conversation and we heard Al say over and over again, “Send the information to our home and we will decide whether or not to contribute.” Then in slow motion, we watched Al pull out his credit card and began to rattle off his number.

Our son grabbed the phone from his dad’s hand and questioned the person on the other end of the line. “Who is this?” Then he hung up and said to his dad. “It’s a scam.”

Al said, “But she was really nice. I believed in her cause and was going to give her $50.”

Our son said, “She would get more than $50. Next time, let it go to the answering machine.”

“I can’t do that. It might be family or a doctor’s appointment. Sometimes I don’t recognize the number.”

These hustlers come through the front door, phone lines and email accounts. They particularly target the elderly. I am mindful of older people who trust everyone. They come from a place when they didn’t have to lock their front door and a phone call meant someone cared about them. They are not savvy to the ways of the world. I am finding that my Sweet Al and I are not either. We want to think good things about everyone.

My friend was frazzled and confused and said to me, “I don’t know what to do. I received a phone call from someone who told me my grandson was in jail in Mexico and he was asking me to send money and pay for his bail.”

I asked her if she knew where her grandson was and if he was in Mexico? She didn’t know, but she couldn’t let him stay in jail. She had gone to the bank, withdrew $2,000 and was on her way to Western Union to send it to him.

Her daughter stopped her in time.

Another friend of mine said that a policeman called and asked for bail for someone they had arrested. She knew it was a scam because police never call for bail. That’s not their job.

I asked her about a call I receive regularly from the policemen for the children’s charity. That one pulls at my heartstrings.

She said, “Remember, policemen do not call for money. Just tell them you don’t give over the phone unless you initiate the phone call.”

I received an email from a friend who was stranded in New York. She needed me to send money so she could get home. I immediately emailed her in a private message and asked her if she was in New York and if she needed money.

She said, “No. That letter went out to her address list and one person did send money. She immediately sent a notice to all her email friends not to answer that email.”

We have to be wiser than wolves. They come in sheep’s clothing and camp on our doorstep.

Warning: Beware of those who want what you have. They come in many forms: The FTC received 143,000 reports on tech support scams. Don’t let them into your computer and give them your password. There are IRS and Medicare scams, calls from the SSA and people who have money for you. Scammers go after international students’ money. They even set up loans for college students who are away from home. The list goes on and on.

Final brushstroke: We have come to such a place as this. Through social media and the phone, we have opened our doors to the world. It is a new day. My generation is being targeted and deceived and the fast-talking cons are getting away with their money.