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My mother-in-law called us, in tears. “I’m scared,” she said. “D____ is in trouble.” As she described the phone call she had received from her grandson asking for money and pleading with her not to tell anyone about his desperate situation, we knew immediately that she was being scammed.

In a town several states away from us she walked from her apartment to her bank to check her balance, to see what she could afford to send to the man who kept phoning, asking her to send as much as she could. But before she took the next critical step, withdrawing funds from her bank, she did what she’d been instructed to do by her family. She called her son.

It took us awhile to calm her down. First, we listened as she poured out her story.  It took some time to convince her that her grandson was just fine; had not made that call; never would make such a call.

It’s difficult for elders unacquainted with communications technology to understand how someone in Jamaica (where the local police said these calls initiate) could get her phone number. Apparently predators can check random phone numbers against social security numbers to determine the age, and therefore the vulnerability, of a mark. Our call to her local police department turned up that information and a policewoman followed up with her to dispel her fright.

“She was laughing when I got off the phone with her,” the deputy reported back to my husband. Good to know that local police still perform these types of services in small rural towns across America. (more…)

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