Got an older grandparent, or parent, who may be moving and thinking a little slower these days? You should know that there are “legitimate” companies, feeding his or her name to scammers who would like to clean out their bank accounts. The victims are people like 92 year old Army vet and widower Richard Guthrie.
As Mr. Guthrie sat home alone — surrounded by his Purple Heart medal, photos of eight children and mementos of a wife who was buried nine years earlier — the telephone rang day and night. After criminals tricked him into revealing his banking information, they went to Wachovia, the nation’s fourth-largest bank, and raided his account, according to banking records.
“I loved getting those calls,” Mr. Guthrie said in an interview. “Since my wife passed away, I don’t have many people to talk with. I didn’t even know they were stealing from me until everything was gone.”
InfoUSA, the Times tells us, is one of many companies selling lists of names that are a gold mine for criminals. There are millions of names per list, which have titles such as “Elderly Opportunity Seekers”- people probably in serious financial need, and “Suffering Seniors,” people living in fear of their debilitating or fatal illnesses.
Online postings tell us that InfoUSA shareholders accuse the company’s president of playing fast and loose with the firm’s money, and are trying to get him removed. The disclosure that he’s selling lists to crooks just might speed along that process.
People who exploit the elderly are one of the lowest forms of criminal, and we all have a duty to warn older family members and friends: don’t disclose any personal information or make any kind of commitment to a “cold” caller on the telephone.