Senior citizens urged to be wary of scammers

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 18 January 2022 at 9:10 am

Barre man bilked for more than $4K by men going door-to-door selling steaks

BARRE – The family of a Barre senior is going public with a recent situation in which their father was scammed out of more than $4,000.

Steve Davis is sharing his father’s story in hopes of preventing any other senior from being taken advantage of.

Steve’s father, who is 80, lives in Barre and admittedly is not as sharp-minded as he used to be.

On Dec. 22, two middle-aged men knocked on his door and claimed to be selling packages of premium steaks for $50 to $100.

“Being a very trusting person, my dad bought their steaks and gave them a signed, blank check, assuming it would be made out for $50,” Davis said. “The men came back a second time and dad bought 20 more steaks.”

Steve stopped to see his dad last week and was told the men had just been there again. They told the elderly man they wholesale televisions and could get him one cheap.

Steve and his brother Tim monitor their father’s finances, so when they checked the bank account this past Thursday, they were alarmed to see their father had written three checks, and he never writes checks, as his accounts are all set up for autopay, Steve said.

In all, their dad had written one check for more than $1,200, the second for more than $1,400 and the third for $1,800.

“Dad thought he had bought $50 to $100 worth of meat,” Steve said.

The first check was cashed with the memo on the check “meat packages.” The second check was cashed for more than $1,400.

Then the men told Mr. Davis he had won a freezer and they needed $18 to pay the tax. That was the check written for $1,800 and cashed.

It was indicated by the bank on both checks that neither men had an account there.

Steve said they contacted the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office, but because their dad is able to live independently, he has to come in and file a complaint himself. They also said it might be difficult to prove the men committed a crime, as his dad had given them signed blank checks.

Steve warns seniors not to be trusting and never let a stranger in your door, no matter who they claim to be or why they want to come in. He said he and his brother still have to take inventory of their dad’s home to determine if anything was stolen while the men were in the house.

In addition to being middle-aged, Steve’s dad described the men as one being skinny and the other heavyset.

Furthermore, Steve took a package of the meat home and thawed it out to discover the meat was yellow and smelled sour.

Seniors are prime targets for scam artists in many forms. Several years ago, a Medina senior was scammed out of thousands of dollars by someone who claimed he had won a large sum of money and needed something like $8,000 for fees to get it across the border from Canada.

Recently, Orleans Hub contributor Virginia Kropf received a phone call from a young man, who called her “Grandma.” He asked if she knew who it was and assumed it could be her grandson in the Marines in North Carolina.

So she carried on a conversation with him, but all the while was trying to place the voice. After talking a few minutes, the young man asked her to promise to keep his call confidential, and finally admitted he had gotten lost that morning and went the wrong way down a one-day street, hitting and injuring a pregnant driver.

She then began to wonder why, when he was on base, would he be out driving around early in the morning. When he said he was in court and needed $2,500, she knew then the caller was a fake. When she replied she didn’t have that kind of money available, he replied, “You don’t?” And he hung up.

Lt. Todd Draper of the Medina Police Department said his department receives occasional reports of an ongoing “grandparent scam,” where elderly individuals are targeted. They may vary in presentation, but usually include the victim being called by a person claiming to be a grandchild or attorney for the grandchild.

The caller often outlines a motor vehicle accident or an arrest that occurred in a different state or country, and they need money sent immediately. The caller will ask for money in the form of a wire transfer, mobile payment app or purchasing of gift cards or money orders.

Like the call Kropf received, the caller will likely stress the need to send the money immediately, without telling anyone, or may reference a “gag order” from a court.

According to Draper, these callers may seem believable and will be very persuasive and insistent.

A senior receiving a call like this should pause and think of a question to ask the caller, which only their grandchild would know, such as a personal question about someone else in the family or the last time he visited his grandparent.