Preying on the elderly is nothing new. And nothing rare. Googling “preying on the elderly” gets you nearly a quarter of a million hits. The hits for “scamming the elderly” are almost that high.
Mostly, I read about this in the abstract.
But shortly before my mother (at age 80) sold her house, she was being hard-sell hustled by some company that wanted her to buy something super-expensive. I can’t recall exactly what it was, and my mother is no longer here to ask, but I think it may have been a state of the art home security that would have been more appropriate for an estate insured by Chubb than for a modest ranch house in Main South, Worcester.
Because my mother was a kind, polite, and hard of hearing old lady, the sales person almost convinced her she HAD to invite him to make a home visit and buy something or other from him. But in addition to being kind, polite, and hard of hearing, Lizzie was also frugal and with-it enough to enlist the advice of her kids. We put the kibosh on this transaction.
More recently, my cousin Ellen has had a close encounter with a web-based marketing services company that had suckered her elderly aunt-in-law into agreeing to spend $15K for a computer, web site, banner ads, etc., and a full set up that would let her run a home-based marketing business.
The company that sold her this bill of goods was Website Innovations.
Keeping in mind that, on the web no one knows you’re a dog, the company looks legit, with a range of reasonably priced web services. But running through their price list, I’d say that they must have gotten Auntie Em to purchase two of everything.
While the business might look like it’s on the up and up, the Better Business Bureau of Central, Northern, and Western Arizona – Website Innovations is headquartered in Arizona – gives the company a big fat:
for running one of those insidious work-from-home schemes.
BBB complaints and inquiries allege that Website Innovations is a work at home business opportunity that charges up front fees, and makes high income claims that do not generate income for the consumer. On December 28, 2011, the BBB requested that Website Innovations provide substantiation that they are not a work from home business opportunity. While the company provided the BBB with information by the deadline given by the BBB, the information did not substantiate the company is not work at home.
Website innovations like this we could all live without.
Anyway, Auntie Em was saved by the fact that the price tag on her purchase was so high it required a bank transfer. The bank smelled a rat and called the police.
It’s easy to see how Auntie Em got snookered.
A widow with no children, Auntie Em is, at 84, suffering from dementia.
But she was with it until a couple of years ago, and had held a number of good jobs over the years,. For many years – up until her early 80’s – she ran a successful bookkeeping business, with many clients ran, from home. But as she aged, and dementia started to set in, the mistakes started adding up and Auntie Em was out of business.
So, here’s a woman who well into old age had been professionally active. And who remains (these are Ellen’s words) “in so may ways her witty, engaging, funny self.... Until you find out the litany of weird things she's been doing.” One of which was paying $1,000 for a vacuum cleaner that she didn’t need, which is probably what got her on the sucker list.
How simple it must have been for someone to convince Auntie Em that she could, once again, become a vitally engaged business woman. That she would once again be in the professional driver’s seat, making her own decisions, running her own company. And while Ellen and her husband Mike have been watching out for Auntie Em, making repeated visits over the last several months as her condition has deteriorated – no small thing, given that Auntie Em lives 250 miles from Ellen and Mike’s Chicagoland home – they can’t be there with her every day.
Fortunately, the bank was able to nip this con in the bud.
I’m sure that the Website Innovation high-pressure phone salesperson would tell you that they weren’t doing anything illegal. And why shouldn’t a little old lady be enabled, even encouraged, to keep on keeping on with her own business?And how were they to know that Auntie Em was a little old lady with dementia?
Well, whether it’s legal or not, it sure isn’t ethical.
Speaking of which, Website Innovation’s Facebook page includes a link to their section on something called Ethical Arizona – which is part of that Central, Northern Western BBB and is “your source for ethical companies in Arizona.”
When you click on the link with the URL that’s particular to Website Innovation’s, you come up empty.
Maybe they thought nobody’d click through. Just like maybe they thought that no one had Auntie Em’s back.
Bad enough suckering anyone into one of these rancid work at home businesses, let alone someone’s who’s 84 years old.
You really have to ask yourselves how some people manage to look themselves in the mirror, don’t you?
A tip of the Pink Slip hat to my cousin Ellen for letting me use Auntie Em’s story.