My mother is a wonderfully kind and generous person. She is also wonderfully naive and trusting, especially around authority. She has the gift of mercy and has always served others. She cared for our family of four kids including my sister, Ruth, who suffers from cerebral palsy. She cared for my father as he fought against the emphysema that killed
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russ: way to go (1/25/13)
him at age 42. She helped care for our friend, Pete, who also contracted emphysema. She cared for my step father, Herm, as he sank slowly into dementia and died. She has experienced great loss and yet her love and care will always mark her journey. Our inheritance from her is her
lovely example of walking in godly paths and laying down one's life for others. As she ages she has become more and more fragile and vulnerable and we long to care for her as she has cared for us and for others.
She lives in Phoenix 120 miles away from me. Yesterday she called me and left a message that I should call back right away. I did and she was in tears telling me that she might have messed up, but that she had just been trying to help. She told me she had been told to tell no one the story, but that she couldn't help it. She had gone to the Fry's grocery
store and as she was putting her groceries in the trunk of her old 1967 Chevrolet Bel Air a nice lady came up to her and asked her for help. Mom is used to people talking to her whenever she drives her car so she was not alarmed. The lady showed her a bag with a lot of money in it and told her she had just found it in the parking lot and didn't know what to do. She thought she should maybe take it to a bank and ask them what to do. Mom told her that was a good idea and the lady asked if Mom could give her a ride since she didn't want to walk down the street with so much money. Mom agreed because Mom loves to help people. When they got
to the Wells Fargo Bank the lady asked Mom to wait while she went inside in case there were any questions. A Mr. Roberts, posing as the bank manager, came out to her car and explained that the money was part of a fraud being committed against the bank and asked Mom if she would be
willing to help them catch the evil people. She is a helper so she agreed to help. They asked her if she would be willing to write them a check that they would deposit in the fraud perpetrators' account and that they would give her a check in return to deposit in her account. She told them she only had a few hundred dollars in her checking
account, but that she had $6,000.00 in a savings account. They suggested that she write her check for $6,130.00 and they would do the same. She did as she was asked and they warned her to tell no one since that would hurt their chances of catching the bad guys. They left her and she drove to her bank to deposit the check they had given her.
I have told the story the best I can based on her account, but please know that it was a jumbled, sometime incoherent rambling story full of tears and shame and fear. I told her to immediately hang up and call 911 and tell the police what she had told me. She was afraid to do so, but I told her she had no choice. "Maybe it will be okay," she said, "They seemed like such nice people."
I told her to call 911 and I would call her bank's fraud department. I have power of attorney over her financial affairs and immediately went on line to check her account balances noting that there was a pending deposit for $6,130 into her checking account but that no money had left the account as of that moment. I called the fraud division and after having to answer some questions about my rights to make decisions on her behalf they were incredibly helpful. They froze all of her accounts immediately and said that we should assume that all of her information was compromised and that I would have to go into a branch tomorrow(today) and open all new accounts on her behalf. They confirmed that the check she had deposited was worthless and that it would bounce. At that moment they showed no hits on the check that she had written to the con artists, but said that probably didn't mean much since they could take it to a check cashing place that might not call and check if the funds were available or put a standard hold on it. At any rate, they assured me that she was in the clear and that the perpetrators would either not get her money or some check cashing place would be left holding the bag. It was such a relief to talk to these kind, helpful, sympathetic banking folks who knew exactly what to do and were able to make a horrible situation wonderfully better.
I called Mom to tell her the good news and she was talking to the police. They asked to speak with me and the officer said he wasn't exactly sure what was going on since my mother's story was a bit confusing, but that he gathered that she had fallen for a scam and that someone should contact her bank. I told him what I had done and he said,
"Great! Can you call them back and have them contact us when they find out where her check hits? That way we can maybe get some video footage and catch these bastards." The police clearly know who they are dealing with because they showed Mom some pictures and she picked out the 'nice
lady' that she had 'helped'.
An hour later I called again in hopes of calming Mom down a bit, but she told me she couldn't talk because police detectives were there collecting DNA samples, fingerprints, and other evidence from her car. Again the police officer asked to speak with me and he explained what they were doing. He told me that this pair had similarly conned an
elderly couple out of over $20,000 the week before. "We need to catch these folks before they strike again. I love that you saved your mother's money, but that doesn't mean they didn't somehow get the cash.In the end, I don't really care if some shady check cashing joint is out the money, but I hope that we can catch these con artists soon. Your
mother is being very helpful although she is very confused and the story is a bit disjointed and hard to follow."
Please pray for Mom. My older sister is coming to town next week and I will drive down and we will figure out next steps. I believe it is probably time to take away her car and have someone take over her finances and do some of the cleaning and other work that is hard for her to do. Or perhaps she should move from the house she loves into a care
home. I'm not sure what is best and what best honors her. She pleaded with us a couple years ago that she be allowed to die in her house. Yet she is so very vulnerable that it seems cruel to leave her there. The conversations we must have will be difficult. Please pray for grace all around.
I would advise you to have power of attorney over the financial affairs of your elderly parents. It was so helpful in order to stop this fraud for me to be able to access Mom's accounts and to be able to act quickly on her behalf. I told my son, Derek, that I should probably make some similar arrangements over our accounts. When I told Eric what was happening and suggested that he would have to watch over me in the future, he said, "Don't worry, Rod, you'll never have $6,000 in a savings account."
Derek said, "Dad, in the end this worked out pretty well. You either helped to catch some bad guys or you assured that one of those payday loan, check cashing joints that prey on poor people and that you so despise got left holding the bag."
Pray for Mom. Pray the police catch the con artists and others like them. Pray for the hard, awkward conversations we must have with the Mom we love. Pray that Jesus comes quickly and puts an end to lying and scamming and cheating and all the ways of those who are willing to stoop to such low practices of scamming the naive and trusting elderly.