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Silver Threads: Taking money from seniors

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

There’s a kind of sexy sounding guy who’s taken to calling me on the telephone lately, two or three times a week. His voice is nice, with a sort of gravelly, husky, almost-intimate undertone, and I can tell he probably looks a lot like the cute 40-something actor who played Kyra Sedgewick’s FBI agent husband on TNT’s “The Closer.” He’s speaking from either the warehouse or the mailroom of the company he works for, and, undoubtedly tall, broad-shouldered and slim hipped, he’s probably wearing a dark blue or, maybe, olive-colored shirt and pants with the firm’s logo in red and white on one pocket.

It seems he’s looking at a package addressed to me, and “Shoot,” he says, “it’s already paid for” and I may as well give him the go-ahead to send it on.

I don’t know why he hasn’t sent it already — this medical alert system that he says somebody loves me enough to have provided — because I’ve never pushed “five” to find out.

Skeptic that I am — an inheritance from dozens of ancestors on Daddy’s side of the family — I theorize that shipping costs for the alert system have not been pre-paid by my alleged benefactor, and I’ll be invited to put up $40 or so for a piece of junk worth $5. It’s easier just to hang up, and anyway I’ve gotten a little tired of Mr. Sexy, calling as he does at dinnertime and while I’m watching important television shows or playing free cell on the computer.

Feeling as I do, I’ve missed out on plenty of opportunities, the most significant of which have been bequests of up to $3 million that various self-described lawyers have promised would be mine if only I’d answer their e-mails. Theirs, I’ve learned, are what’s called phishing expeditions.

I got to thinking about all this the other day when a former co-worker passed me a list of the Top 10 Online Senior Scams released by SiteJabber, a consumer-protection service that helps people avoid fraudulent websites and steers them to good sites via consumer reviews. It includes these plots designed to take money from gullible old folks: Work at home scams, senior dating scams, lottery sweepstakes scams, phishing scams, bogus online pharmacies, Facebook scams, high-cost loans, phony anti-aging products, weight-loss scams, and fake government sites.

Anything seem familiar here? I think I’ve pretty much seen them all, but didn’t realize some were probably scams because I never cared enough even to pull them up out of my PC mailbox. Anti-aging products? Give me a break, please.

The phishing scams I know well, and the first overture I got was purportedly from my internet server. Who wouldn’t pull that one up? The e-mail told me that my account would be “shorted” down unless I supplied certain info that included my e-mail password. I didn’t, but a friend of mine did, and he leapt to his PC when I mentioned it one night over dinner. He has the same server, had bitten on the phishing message, and had to change his password quickly.

Another time, I got an e-mail from my Dallas cousins saying that she was “crying her eyes out” or something dramatic like that; she and her husband were in London “in the U.K.,” had had their wallets containing cash, credit cards and passports stolen, and were unable to get home unless I wired them $1,000 at an address to be divulged when I answered the e-mail.

The fact that the e-mail referred to London as being in the U.K. — I know where it is and she knows that I know it — wasn’t the only thing that made me doubt this message. She and her husband are seasoned travelers and have a son who would have been willing and able to help them in any crisis.

I called her a few days later to laugh about the message and she told me they hadn’t been on any trips lately but that everyone in her PC address book had gotten the same pitiful tale. Nobody took the bait on this phishing trip, though.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at


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