My Blog Week: October 31 to November 6
A Word on the Week
I’m going to tell a story that I hope will be helpful, and may prevent someone being swindled. My mother is eighty-four years old, and widowed. She has been a hospital administrator and a college professor. She has always been super responsible, meticulous with record-keeping. She had an accident earlier in the year; an elderly dog she owned attacked her and damaged the fingers on both her hands. That led to a long period of curtailed activity. When I visited, I noticed she had the habit of repeating things she had said moments past. But I didn’t think this was a meaningful departure, just a mildly surprising escalation of aging. A few months ago, she started talking about some hackers who had got her social security number and had been using it to buy cars and take out loans. She said she was being called frequently by law enforcement people investigating the case, and by a lawyer who was acting on her behalf. The case had moved on to a trial in Texas, but the lawyer was handling her interests so she needn’t do more than have these conversations, which she said took up long periods of her days.
I didn’t pick up, from these secondhand accounts, anything alarming. It was an odd set of events, but she had said also the FBI didn’t want her to say anything while the trial was going on. My lack of knowledge of such scams, and my belief in my mother’s competence made me less curious than I might have been. Her banker called me, last month, and said he thought everyone Mom was talking to was a scammer. It turned out one person she spoke with, a woman who called herself Elizabeth (no last name), had been representing that she worked, per one conversation, for the Attorney General’s office in Washington; at other times, Mom said Elizabeth was with the FBI.
The setup was classic. Mom would be frightened by the identity theft, and the crimes alleged being committed under her name. Then a helpful person claiming authority would talk to her, and she would bond to this person. Her attachment became a strong resistance to any of us—myself, my brother, her banker, the police—telling her not to trust Elizabeth, and another “helper”, who called himself James or David Miller.
It turned out Mom was much further along the path to cognitive difficulties, more confused, more unable to sort things in her short-term memory, than we had suspected. The swindlers, even while we were all trying to help, induced her to buy on her credit card, $5000 worth of Visa gift cards, and to give them the numbers and security codes. I was able to look up three of the cards, and the money had been withdrawn via Paypal, and Alibaba.
So, if you have an elderly parent, be aware that this type of scam can be really difficult to protect against. It uses the psychological manipulation of carrot-and-stick, good cop/bad cop; it also takes advantage of an older person’s natural trust in authority. My mother was isolated by the barrage of phone calls, that she thought she needed to be there to take, and being isolated, she was getting her social feedback, a sense of importance and excitement, from this continual loop of scary calls and reassurances from FBI impersonators.
On Monday, a new Yoharie, Hibbler finding a pretext to examine Yoharie’s basement. On Tuesday, “Drownings” concluded, with the source of the rising dead identified. Wednesday, a new poem; Thursday, Hammersmith, with events at Mossbunker’s factory coming to gunfire. Friday and Saturday, a short story, “Spin the Wheel”, a gig worker’s special assignment going awry.
Images on my posts often have a link to related information (click first image), sometimes serious, sometimes whimsical, sometimes in answer to a direct reference. Since people can be leery about links, I include them here: what they are, what sites they point to.
My Blog Week: October 31 to November 6