I’m writing this for those of you with aging friends and relatives. Last week my daughter and I were visiting an 80-year-old friend. While we were there, she took a phone call and it was clear the person on the other end demanded something. Every time Friend tried to get off the phone, the caller continued to engage her and, across the table from us, Friend became flustered. I knew something was wrong, and finally convinced Friend to hang up. As soon as she did the phone rang again, and this time, I picked it up. A woman insisted she needed to speak to Friend and when I told her Friend was no longer available, she announced, “I know she is there, I was just speaking with her.”
The caller identified herself as a representative of American Reader (which according to the police is a legitimate publication company, although clearly, this person was NOT employed by them). The woman asserted Friend had ordered something and she was trying to cancel the order. She stated she had the last four digits of friend’s credit card, but she needed Friend to verify the whole number before she could put the cancellation through. When I told her there was no way she was going to get Friend’s credit card number, the woman, rude as they come to begin with, became belligerent and I hung up. Immediately, the same number called again and I cut off the call without speaking. This happened seven or eight more times. Finally, I picked up the phone when it rang and said, “If you call this number again, I’m calling the police.” She called again, and I called the police.
The lovely police officer who came to visit indicated that this scam has been prevalent in our area lately. He reminded Friend of something that seems like a no-brainer, but that I am suggesting everyone who reads this might share with those with those who may be vulnerable.
No legitimate company will act like this.
Giving the overbearing tactics, I’m sure the perpetrators’ theory is, “if we beat them down, they’ll give us what they want, just to make us go away.”
Folks, outside of my writing time, I work for a senior center. The generation before us was trained to be polite, to listen to authority. Our friend tried to be nice. “I don’t remember ordering anything,” she said. “I’m not sure where my credit card is right now.” Every well-mannered sentence she uttered opened a door for the scammer to push further and I am not convinced, had we not been there, Friend wouldn't have given the woman what she wanted just to make her go away.
Check with your parents, grandparents and elderly friends. Remind them they are in charge, regardless of how abusive someone is on the other side of the telephone line. Share no personal information over the phone.
Don’t assume. Make sure they know.