Early one morning several weeks ago, my 88-year-old mother, who lives in a nearby community, called me to tell me that she had just won the Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes. She went on to say that she had just received a phone call from a man in Dallas telling her she had won the sweepstakes, valued at more than $3 million.
He told her that two of their men would be in her community later in the day and would follow her to the bank where she would withdraw $1,500 to cover the IRS fee as down payment for them to deliver her money.
She was really excited, but I knew immediately what was up. At this point I told her, in no uncertain terms, not to get involved because she was about to become the victim of a scam. I even went so far as to call her brother, who is a CPA, and he in turn called and told her the same thing — I later learned all to no avail.
Even with a warning from a policeman who attends her church and the branch manager of her bank, she still withdrew $1,500 from her savings and sent "cash" to this man out of state. If she gets a penny of it back, I will be more than a monkey’s uncle.
Of course, the question that immediately came to my mind was: why? Over the objections of a number of people she should have been willing to trust to tell her the truth, she still fell victim to a scam. It could have been that, due to her age, her mind is slipping and she was just not able to think logically and rationally. Also the fact that she has never had a lot of money in her life, the thought of having that much money was so exciting and appealing that she just threw caution to the wind.
This also leads me to make another statement that you may or may not agree with. Elderly people are gullible. This is not to say that all elderly people are gullible, not by any stretch, but many are and they often pay a high price.
The reason for this, I believe, is because she comes from a generation where the vast majority of people were honorable, honest, truthful and would not take unfair advantage of another person for personal gain. However, we now live in a day and time when scams of various kinds have become big business.
While my own mother has been a victim, along with thousands of others, I personally believe there is a special place in Hell reserved for those who would scam the elderly and are cruel to animals.
Ironically, the same day she called me we had a Lions Club speaker from the Little Rock Better Business Bureau and you can probably guess his topic: "How to Spot Scams." Due to space constraints I won’t be able to give much detail, but here is a list of the 10 most frequent scams they report: 1. job hunter scams. 2. debt relief and settlement services. 3. work from home schemes. 4. timeshare resellers. 5. not so "free" trial offers. 6. rogue home repair and roofers. 7. lottery and sweepstakes scams. 8. advance-fee loan scams. 9. over-payment scams. 10. identity theft.
Here is a point that needs to be made. People who are scammed may lose a little or a lot, but the real losers are the scammers themselves. When we do wrong there is always a price to pay whether we get caught or not. Here I am reminded of the late Billy Sunday’s sermon titled, "There Will Be a Payday Some Day."
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit www.bookcaseforeverychild.com.)