Gowanus Lounge: Serving Brooklyn

Sad Story: A Scam That Contributed to a Death?

October 12th, 2008 · 2 Comments

We’re not clear what neighborhood this story originates from (it appears to be Kensington), but we found it on the Boerum Hill email list with the subject line “scams have resulted in a death.” Here’s the weird and sad story:

On Tuesday, I found my dear friend and neighbor in her apartment, the phone off the hook. It turns out that this dear 81-year-old lady was actually on the phone with a scammer* when she was struck down. He called while I was still in the apartment with the police—-I thought he was a friend—-and told me that the phone had dropped and it was busy after that. Then he hung up on me, “upset”. (*her son found this man’s and several other Jamaica phone numbers in her address book. She has no friends there)

Thousands of dollars were on her dining table, and a receipt dated 10/6 for a wire transfer to Jamaica for thousands more. This dear lady had been more forgetful lately, and I and her family members knew she was upset and embarrassed at having lost a huge amount of money to a scam earlier in the year. I urged her and even wrote her to consult a trusted family member before doing any financial actions. She was constantly short of money lately; little did we know it was because she was sending it all away.

We thought she had stopped. The scammer who called Tuesday had called her at her studio on Sunday as well. My friend had hypertension and high blood pressure, and we now believe that these people pressuring her for 6 months resulted in her death. She was an active person, frequently riding her bike from Kensington to the Botanic Gardens or Coney Island. Physically fit.

I urge you to keep a close tab on elderly neighbors and family members. Unfortunately they may lie about being involved in scams out of embarrassment, defensiveness or (in their diminished capacity) because they think the current scam is the real thing.

If another close friend and I had called this lady’s son and expressed our concern for her capabilities, she might still be here. I did not know the extent of her diminished reasoning and the other friend did not know of the scams. Together, our info to her son could have made the difference. But we hesitated to interfere.

Don’t hesitate. The scammers are high-pressure, relentless, uncaring. There were also mail-scams on her table. They obviously put the word out on her. Be intrusive if necessary, get a family contact number for “emergencies”. Use it.


Tags: Crime · Uncategorized

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Janet // Oct 12, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    I urge you to keep a close tab on elderly neighbors and family members. is an important lesson from this account, even without the “scam” element. This 81-year-old was at high risk for stroke, yet apparently lived alone and without any means beyond the telephone to summon help in case of emergency.

    The writer is to be commended for keeping tabs on her friend, who might well have become just as angry at the writer as, it is speculated, she got at the scammer, causing a stroke.

    Where was her son in this? It’s shameful that he wasn’t proactive in ensuring his mother, whom he must have known was deteriorating, was “managing” alone.

  • 2 Michelle // Nov 3, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    I am so sorry for the loss of your friend.
    We see the woman in the same situation every day and we can’t stop it. She is in her late 70’s or early 80’s and has been scammed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and we can’t seem to get it through to her that she will receive nothing in return for all the money she sends. I am at a loss as far as what to do.
    The church she attended (she left because they attempted to help her get out of this situation), and the church that she now attends have tried to help but have had the same results.
    I have contacted the Sherriff’s dept, the Atty General’s office, Adult Protective Services, today I called the FBI fraud dept, not sure if that will go anywhere or not.
    Her only family lives in Thailand, like I said we are at a complete loss.
    I am going to print your story and several others and take it to her today……not sure where to go from here.