Scams Against the Elderly are Going Unchecked in Our Suburbs
- Too hard to prove!
- Too sleazy to catch!
- Leaving victims too embarrassed & too ashamed to report it!
Dear ‘Tom’ the Tree Man,
Firstly, thank you for kindly offering your Tree-felling services at the home of an elderly client of mine, Mrs Maria Popalotova, approximately six months ago.
Lovely Maria is a proud but humble, 89-year old Bulgarian-born lady who, although substantially vision-impaired, still lives alone in her large family home, stews jars of fruit (picked from her very own garden) and as the neighbours can testify – sings soprano in FULL voice whilst doing the housework chores. Suffering arthritis and prone to the odd fall (understandable when you’re officially legally blind), Maria is still mostly independent and in damn good nick for a mature girl.
Somehow, Tom, I suspect you may already have known some of this at the time?
In fact, Maria remarked to me not long after meeting you, that it was uncanny when you turned up on her doorstep one day, out of the blue, like you did. Straight after that huge storm we had; the one where horrific winds caused such massive destruction in her suburb.
Oh, what a godsend you were, Tom!
How else could Maria ever have realised the danger she was in with that large eucalyptus tree in her backyard leaning so perilously close to her bedroom window?
And, as you so earnestly advised her, it would only take one more big wind – and it could literally DESTROY HER ENTIRE HOUSE, didn’t you say, Tom? Crikey, Tom… you told Maria that THIS would happen:
And, therefore, it was imperative for Maria’s own safety, as you told her at the time, that the tree be removed IMMEDIATELY.
Oh, and what luck it was, Tom… that Maria had all that cash hidden away on the ledge above the kitchen stove, in her little secret teapot… the pretty white one with the pansies on it. Coincidentally, the precise amount you required to start the job, Tom – exactly $2000. What luck!
And a BARGAIN, you said, considering how the now terrified Maria’s life could be at stake if the teetering tree wasn’t removed by Friday. Why, it was pittance, really.
As you said, Tom, it would be foolish (and very “un-Australian”) NOT to pay you! And so she paid you willingly, Tom, because you were just so caring and concerned for her wellbeing.
Which is why Maria understood completely when you ever-so-politely insisted, that you have the cash up front to buy materials NOW.
IT WAS BECAUSE YOU CARED, TOM!
To be honest, finding people that actually do ‘care’ as much as you do, Tom, is pretty thin on the ground these days. Especially after hearing all these dreadful stories about elderly people being scammed by all sorts of dodgy tradesmen and fake utility servicemen.
Innocent elders who are conned out of money that they’ve saved up during their working lives; nest-eggs for retirement enabling them to enjoy their golden years; or just money set aside for increased medical costs from potential health issues associated with ageing.
And then there’s the appalling fraudsters, the lowest of the low, who just randomly turn up at people’s doors, unscrupulously offering so-called urgent maintenance of phone, gas or power lines.
Because nobody DARES mess with a potentially broken one of these.
As a scare tactic – IT’S PERFECT!
Then there’s the scoundrels posing as contractors who scope out neighbourhoods, watching for lonely and vulnerable older adults who, often desperate for company, are more than happy to believe the “nice man” at their front door.
And that these ‘necessary’ property repairs, such as broken roof tiles, brickwork, cracked concrete paths, driveways or garden maintenance – are absolutely genuine.
Come to think of it, Tom, a bit like the work you offered to do for Maria, wasn’t it?
It’s actually quite sad (and scary) to think that innocent senior citizens living alone are such easy targets to these con artists, merely because they choose to TRUST people.
Such a nasty world out there, Tom, when you think about it… to know that someone could sink that low?
And I’m sure it wasn’t your fault you were delayed, Tom.
As Maria said, you probably had a lot of other work in the area that needed doing, too. In fact, it was only a few weeks back when she said she thought you would return any day now. That you and your little unmarked yellow van would pull into her driveway with all the special equipment (that she paid for) to get that pesky tree down before it did any major damage.
SHE STUCK BY YOU, TOM!
Even when the contact details on your most professional-looking business card came back with ‘number not in service’…. she still had faith that you’d honour your word. Maria actually worried about you, Tom, and she hoped that nothing bad had happened to you.
Isn’t that sweet?
Funny thing about the big allegedly ‘dangerous’ gumtree, and perhaps you were looking at it from the wrong angle, Tom? But a man from the council came to check it out the other day and confirmed that it could never have been a threat to Maria’s home. Even if it did fall over – it just wasn’t big enough!
Sadly, Tom, in the last month or so, I have noticed a change in dear Maria. She is so much quieter than she used to be; she seems fearful and she’s lost a lot of her confidence and now relies on outside help with her daily routine more than she ever used to.
It’s painful to watch her become this way, Tom – almost as if she has given up on, well… PEOPLE?
Definitely hard to believe she’s the same bubbly lady who once sang (with gusto!) in the shower, bottled her own nectarines and enjoyed social bus trip outings with the local ‘Senior Citz’ club.
Instead she prefers to just stay at home alone. And just sit.
Her family now worry because Maria has become so frail and unwell that she can clearly no longer cope by herself.
Anyway, wherever you are, Tom… thanks so much again for all you’ve done. I heard only last Friday, that Maria’s home had been sold and she has since been re-located into an aged-care facility situated miles away from the life and the people she once knew and loved.
So in the meantime, one question… sorry, Tom. I know you’re such a busy and important man and all…
Would you mind if some devious sleaze-ball did this to YOUR dear old Mum?!?!
Yours in disgust,
(On behalf of our beautiful, broken Maria)