Scams are annoying, and most of us have gotten a suspicious call, email or letter at some point in our lives.
But when a scammer targets the elderly and preys on their loneliness, that’s a special level of disgusting.
When 95-year-old Barbara Hinckley of Auburn, Maine, got a call informing her that she’d won $2.5 million and a Mercedes, she didn’t quite buy it, but the person who called had a name she remembered.
“I was suspicious, but I bought stuff from Publishers Clearing House since 1989, and I knew of the name David Sayer because he’s a prize director,” she told WCSH.
“He was never unkind to me,” she said of the caller with the borrowed name. “He was always thoughtful.”
Despite the original red flags that Hinckley saw, over a month she was slowly convinced of the legitimacy of the winnings.
“I was thrilled; it all seemed very real,” Hinckley told The Washington Post. “He sounded educated, and he had a nice voice. He said there were some procedures that needed to be followed to get me my money and that he’d be back in touch. He also told me not to tell anybody that I was the winner until I’d been awarded my money.”
One of those procedures was that the caller eventually tricked her into giving him her entire life savings: roughly $18,000 (though some reports have claimed it was $25,000).
“It was all I had,” Hinckley told WCSH. “I had $8.75 left in my checking account and that was it.”
She was embarrassed after she realized she’d been scammed — but thankfully for her, someone who heard about her story decided to do something about the injustice.
John Baldacci, the former governor of Maine and a spaghetti connoisseur, was angered on her behalf and set out to help her.
“I felt like I needed to do something, and all I knew how to do was make spaghetti,” he told WCSH. “I just felt like she was my grandmother, like she was everyone’s grandmother. And you wouldn’t want that to happen to your grandmother.”
“The cost is $5 a person,” the page posted on Dec. 24. “Everything collected will go entirely to Hinckley, so larger donations are very much appreciated. Anyone who wants to help Hinckley immediately is welcome to send her a check through her church.”
“If you would like to donate a service or an item to be bid on that night, please let us know. We’d like to encourage you to bring the service in an envelope or item with you on January 8th.”
According to an update, the group managed to raise $18,000 for Hinckley — an impressive sum that replenished her savings.
“It’s just amazing to me to know how many people care,” she said.
Older people are often the target of these horrible scams.
Publishers Clearing House — though a well-known name — never charges for a win.
If you are contacted by someone who is offering you something that sounds too good to be true and requires any sort of monetary involvement on your behalf, it’s likely a scam, and it’s best to talk to someone else about the “offer.”
“It’s the most disgusting thing. People who prey on seniors are the lowest form of life,” Baldacci told The Post. “We wanted to make it a teachable moment and let people know that this is a common problem. Nobody has to feel alone.”
Now, Hinckley lets calls go to message and has advice for everyone: “Don’t answer the phone!”
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