jayellebee's Blog

April 12, 2012

The Scam

Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 3:00 pm
Tags: , ,

     Hollywood makes a good living filming stories about con artists.  A tidal wave of titles — wait, should that read, “a title wave?” —  floods my mind without much thought at all: The Sting, Paper Moon, Catch Me If You Can, The Grifters….  Search Netflix for either “con” or “scam” and prepare for an avalanche of viewing options. 

     I have to admit, The Sting is one of my favorite oldies.  First, you have Paul Newman and Robert Redford.  Neither was hard on the eyes back in 1973, and together they brought more than a scosh of talent to the screen.  Second, the music was good enough to win an Oscar.  Thank you Marvin Hamlisch.  (Click on this link to hear the syncopated theme song: http://www.youtu.be/_xWS3h-apmk .) Third, the plot offered drama, comedy, intrigue, and in the end the bad guy was the only real loser.  What’s not to like?

     However, real-life scams bear little resemblance to their big-screen cousins.  For one thing, the victims aren’t always Fat Cats with a history of evil doings.  My neighbor gave me permission to share her experience with you.

     Evelyn (not her real name) is a widow who will extinguish 97 candles on her birthday in June.  She lives alone despite being legally blind.  Three falls since Christmas have left her worried the extended family may soon apply pressure to make her leave her home of 74 years.  Yes, this lovely lady with the wicked sense of humor has her challenges, but her memory is way sharper than mine.

     Yesterday morning a young man phoned Evelyn, identifying himself by name as one of her many grandsons.  He recited a twisted tale culminating in why he needed Grandma’s help.  A friend, he told her, had been invited to a wedding in Spain.  The friend’s traveling companion had to cancel out on the trip at the last minute.  The caller, on a whim, accepted the proffered free ticket and joined his friend, flying across the Atlantic to witness the marriage of two strangers.

     It seems the friend had a bit too much to drink at the wedding reception.  He asked Grandma’s fair-haired boy to drive their rental car back to the hotel.  Unfamiliar with either the vehicle or the Spanish vehicle code, the ill-equipped young man caused an accident and the policia were not pleased.  He had been escorted to el jailoso (that’s Spanish for the hoosegow).  A compassionate  judge put the poor American in touch with an English-speaking lawyer who, for a mere $2000 up front, could get all the lad’s legal problems sorted out.

     “Is your car running, Grandma?” the caller asked, shifting gears.

     This is when red flags waved with such energy, even my neighbor’s dim eyes couldn’t help but see them.  Evelyn doesn’t own a car.  In fact, she never learned to drive — something everyone in her family knows.

      “I don’t have a car,” she replied with caution.

     Oh, that’s right,” the con man didn’t miss a beat.  “I’m sorry, Grandma.  I’m just so scared I’m not thinking straight.  Could you ask Pat or one of your neighbors to drive you to Western Union so you can wire me the money?”  He proceeded to recite the information she would need to get him out of trouble.

     Evelyn listened, told the caller she wasn’t able to write down the information due to her poor eyesight, and apologized for not being able to help. 

     My husband arrived just as she hung up the phone.  Ken checks on Evelyn each morning when he’s out walking the dog.   Today, our neighbor’s face was ashen when she opened the door. 

     “My grandson just called me from Spain,” she said, her shaking voice barely audible.  “He’s in jail and needs $2000 right away.”

     Ken listened long enough to recognize the classic scam we’ve all been warned about.  He assured Evelyn some stranger was trying to cheat her out of her money.  Telling him she couldn’t help was exactly the right thing to do. 

     “Let’s call your grandson and make sure he’s all right,” Ken suggested.

     Rattled, Evelyn blanked.  She didn’t know the grandson’s phone number.  She couldn’t think of his last name so Ken could look in the phone book.  They eventually came up with the name and number of another relative who confirmed the young man in question was, indeed, safe in California right where he belonged.  A few calls later, Evelyn was able to hear her grandson’s calming voice.  All was well.

     That is, all was well except for the lingering effects of the fright this inconsiderate #%@&* caused a 96 year-old, nearly blind woman.  What if Ken’s timing hadn’t been so spot-on perfect?  What if Evelyn hadn’t been alert enough to be suspicious?  What if she had a car and a driver’s license?  Two thousand dollars would be a major hit to this sweet pensioner who watches her pennies. 

     But that’s not the worst of it.  During the quiet afternoon that followed, Evelyn went over and over the phone call in her mind, remembering more details.  The caller’s voice had sounded familiar, she told me.  And he mentioned “Pat,”  the woman who drives Evelyn to her appointments, by name.  My neighbor can’t identify the voice, but she is sure the scam artist is someone she knows.

     What’s that old saying?  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?  I’m afraid Evelyn has an enemy very close indeed.  And he isn’t Henry Gondorff or Johnny Hooker.



  1. Truly scary indeed! It is so awful that cowardly #%@&*’s prey on the elderly when they can least defend themselves. That God for Ken and his daily checkins with her. Did she ever find out who did it? Great story though, and well-written as usual.

    By the way, my book “Contract Year: a baseball novel” has been published and is available on Amazon (and at Saturday’s CWC/Mt. Diablo meeting, or directly from me so you can get it signed.) I am very excited. It think it looks great! I’ve had the books for a week and have sold 30 copies!

    When will we get to see you “down the hill” again? It would be great to see you.


    Comment by Bee Hylinski - Author and Baseball Fan — April 12, 2012 @ 3:26 pm | Reply

  2. You wrote a great blog and everyone should be wary. But your poor neighbor! Very scary it might be someone she knows . . . or someone at least has been spying on her. Liz

    Comment by lizbooks — April 12, 2012 @ 5:39 pm | Reply

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