NY Times: Phone Swindlers Tap Into Fear and a Sense of Duty


BEFORE Betty Bell, 88, even got out of bed, the telephone jolted her awake at 7 a.m. The male voice on the line said that a police officer was coming to arrest her for shirking her civic duty.

“He told me he was from the courthouse and I had been called for jury duty, but I had not shown up. So they were sending someone over to arrest me,” said Mrs. Bell, a retired accounting and payroll clerk for New Jersey Bell, who moved to the Overland Court Senior Living residence in Boise, Idaho, three years ago.

Just as the caller got to the part about how much she needed to pay to avoid arrest, she passed the phone to a nurse’s aide who had just walked in the room. The caller hung up.

Mrs. Bell was luckier than others who have been tricked into sending money in response to such threats. The swindle takes advantage of older people’s sense of civic duty, and frightens some into complying, even though law enforcement officials say they never call people and ask for personal financial information.


Arthur Hurme, told that his daughter was in jail, bought $3,000 in MoneyPak cards and gave the numbers to a caller.CreditDaniel Rosenbaum for The New York Times

“Seniors are targeted for a variety of scams because it’s a low-risk crime that is often not reported,” said Don Blandin, chief executive of the Investor Protection Trust, an investor education organization. “It’s a great embarrassment, especially when people feel some cognitive loss and they don’t want to be seen as vulnerable.”

 Continue reading here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/24/your-money/phone-swindlers-tap-into-fear-and-a-sense-of-duty.html

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