My hope – for my family and anyone who reads this

esperançaDear Friends: I believe that the word “SCAM” is the most foul four-letter word in the American language. I also think it only fair that as I start this journey to help others in dealing with the horrors of scams, I tell you my family’s story. It will be told over a number of postings since it’s not only long (and on-going), but one of those stories that most will not believe. I also know that others will scoff at my tale and say “why didn’t you see it coming and do something?”. I can honestly say at this point, most don’t see this train wreck until it’s too late. By that time, you are trying to pick up the broken pieces of what once was someones life. By the time you see this coming – the bad guys are long gone in the rear view mirror and all you want to do is make this crazy ride stop because you want to get off – but you can’t. 

I can tell you – you WILL find yourself dealing with things and calling on individuals and organizations that you never thought you would need to call. You WILL have to deal with your family members feelings being hurt while at the same time trying to stop unwanted individuals from infiltrating your lives and taking what isn’t theirs. These criminals take more than money – they rob people of their hope and dignity. They rob the elderly of their life savings and many times, inadvertently, of all their rights. You WILL take each new bump in the road day by day and hope that all you are doing isn’t a complete waste of time. You WILL ask yourself many times, “am I crazy”. As for my pen name of “Little Miss Ray of Sunshine”; consider it a side effect of having to deal with people without morals. By signing my posts this way, I feel like it’s a little kick in the shins (or other body part) to the criminals who invaded my family’s life. A little way of saying “you haven’t beaten me down completely – I’m still here and I will find a way to stop you“. My reasons for telling you MY story is the hope that it prevents some other family from going through this and from being torn apart. My other hope is that it provides those going through the same thing a sense that you are not alone. The choice to read my story is yours, but I hope you do.

My advice for reading my story would be to start with my first post, First Clue – the Big Bad wolf is sniffing around.  And then move through the others: Second Clue – “you bought a what, for how much??!!”Third Clue – it takes an Army to deliver your mailFourth Clue: the word “Scam” is banned from the dictionaryFifth Clue (Part 1) – psychics and goblins and closed accounts – oh my?Fifth Clue (Part 2) – psychics and goblins and closed accounts – oh my?; Sixth Clue – dial “0” for the operatorSeventh Clue – trust flies out the windowEighth Clue – number, number – who’s got the number?Ninth Clue – liar, liar – something’s definitely on fire!!Tenth Clue (Part 1) – you can’t go home again??!Tenth Clue (Part 2) – you can’t go home again??!

“Little Miss Ray of Sunshine”

 

Walk a mile in my shoes…

s1_1387812109Trust me when I say I’ve heard all sorts of questions (and criticism) over the past few years, but these few are the most common.

“Why don’t you take her in?” – Great in theory, bad in practice. With our savings gone, moving her three states away wouldn’t be financially affordable at this point. For now, she lives on her SSI and a tiny (< $180/month pension) and she still receives financial assistance from us in paying routine bills. During the summer and winter months, her electric bills go up and yet her monthly income is unchanged. We cover the difference. She has a dog and cat for companionship and to help her feel safe. She can’t afford to feed them on a regular basis, so we cover the costs associated with food delivery for them.

“Why don’t you have her declared incompetent?” We spoke to several people about this and there is a financial price tag on this one as well. She has a reverse mortgage on her home and this could have major implications on the terms of that loan. We also discovered that her loan terms state that if she takes in a tenant or moves out – the mortgage comes due. We already have one mortgage …we can’t realistically afford two. And selling the house? Home values in her state are at an all-time-low. We wouldn’t make enough to clear the mortgage.

“Why don’t you consider a retirement or assisted living facility?” Have you seen the most recent monthly costs associated with those places? $3,000 per month isn’t uncommon, and that’s on the low-end. Then, of course, you have to consider the facility. Not all places are bad, but not all of them are a place I would feel comfortable with her calling home. 

So, for now, we deal with things the best way we know how with what we have and I seethe in contempt for the sub-humans that have stolen everything from us.

And to those scam artists that may come across this blog, here’s one for you:

“There’s a natural law of karma that vindictive people, who go out of there way to hurt others, will end up broke and alone.” – S. Stallone  

I can only hope!

“Little Miss Ray of Sunshine” 

Spring 2016 – UPDATE

Broken eyeglasses

Dear Friends: It’s now the spring of 2016 and I haven’t touched base with you in a while. I’m sure you thought that by now things would have stopped. Nope. They have, however, managed to calm down significantly – mainly because my mom is flat broke. Let me clarify that last comment by saying she still receives whatever funds are not used for her bills, she has a roof over her head and food in the house, but she has NO savings and NOTHING of value left to pawn. With that said, let’s take a few moments to catch-up since our last visit.

The rose-colored glasses are off and now broken after my husband and I made a recent journey to see my mom this spring. There were no visits for the previous holidays since we were dealing with some of our own financial issues. Funny how having your life-savings drained can do that to you. Anyway – prior to the visit, a couple of things happened in mom’s life. 1. Her doctor turned her in to senior services. Yes, you read that right. Recall when I previously mentioned that several years ago (God has it been that long?) the authorities said to me that “she would need to hit rock bottom”. At the time I was having difficulty in imagining what that could be – well, imagine no more. After several routine visits to her doctor over a few months – he became increasingly concerned about the moderate amount of weight-loss mom experienced. Rest assured the weight-loss, while a good thing, did happen too quickly. After allowing my mom to sling accusations (that I turned her in) at me in a phone call I received while I was at work  – into the picture steps…  2. Meals on Wheels.  While initially mom was apprehensive and “put-off” by having someone scrutinize every aspect of her life, she has come to like having the visits by the volunteers and the ease of pre-made meals. For me – it meant peace of mind that she had food in the house. At the onset, I did receive phone calls from her case-worker to let me know what was going on, and while we discovered mom had ‘lied’ to them about her situation (*side note: she told them ‘someone’ gained access to her bank accounts and stole all her money), I was able to fill them in on the truth so that all the cards were on the table. I discussed with her case-worker that “No, no one gained access to her bank accounts – she willingly gave away all her money [and ours] to every scam artist out there”. “Who you ask? You name it, she’s been involved. She’s the poster child for scams”. I think I was more surprised by the fact that they weren’t surprised by the situation. Her case worker even mentioned that the county mom lives in has the highest incidence of ‘scams against the elderly’ in her home state. My comment of “excuse me??!!” probably made the case-worker cringe. She also more than likely wanted to crawl under her desk when I asked why was it, that when I asked for help the only thing I was told was she would need to hit rock bottom and here are a few pamphlets to read about scams? The case-worker politely stated that they were “overwhelmed”. I know I shouldn’t have taken it out on the poor woman, but I wanted to know why more people weren’t outraged about what was going on right under their noses. Unfortunately, she had no answer.

So – by the time we arrived for our spring visit, we were well-prepped for arguments and instead it was quiet. Too quiet. I came ‘home’ to find my mom knee-deep into a shredding frenzy. She was finally getting rid of anything that was more than a year old – mainly junk and scam mail. Remember, I pay all her bills – so no worries on that front. I also had a moment where I thought to myself – finally. It wasn’t until the day before we were scheduled to leave that I discovered that she was, yup still giving away money. The amounts were much smaller but nonetheless, she is still going to the local Winn-Dixie and sending out Western Union pre-paid cards to any a-hole in Jamaica that makes her an empty promise. Again, I had the conversation with her about “enough is enough” and “if this doesn’t stop, you’ll be in a retirement home faster than you can blink”.  I think that both of us realize the last one is an empty threat since it would cost money she [nor I] have at this point. For now, my husband and I have made a decision that we need to visit her more often – as time and money permits. I have also come to terms that she will NEVER be out from under this until she takes her last breath on this earth.

 Ironically, on our way out-of-town early the next day, we stopped at the local Wal-Mart for “traveling supplies”. While we were checking out – my husband and I noticed large signs at the service counter warning folks that if you are thinking of sending money to Jamaica and do not personally have relatives there – don’t. Apparently the local Winn-Dixie needs those signs as well.

“Little Miss Ray of Sunshine” 

October 2014 – UPDATE

4dfb7-pulling-hair-out-2Dear Friends: It’s been more than a year since I last posted to this blog. I had thought that things would somehow stop – but they haven’t.

We just returned from a trip to see my mom. The first since I was thrown out out (disowned) in May 2013. In all honesty, there have been phone calls in the interim – about once a month around the time her SSI comes in so she can find out how much money I plan to give to her. It’s always the same answer – whatever is leftover after I pay her bills. There have been a number of desperate phone calls in this time period as well – always needing money and don’t dare ask for what or why. It’s been tough, but “no” has been the only answer to those requests.

Upon our arrival, I noticed that the house looked clean and unusually sparse. Let me preface this by saying mom has always been a tiddy person – it’s just that as she’s gotten older less was getting done around the house so there was always a little disorder – but not now. I also noticed – and she did fess up – that the TV that my husband and I had bought her two Christmas’s ago was gone (we came to find out later it was pawned). During the initial hours of our visit, mom also kept harping on if there was anything that I wanted – all I had to do was ask. So I did – I asked for a set of turquoise and silver jewelry (bracelet, earrings and ring) that dad had bought her the first year of their marriage. It was then we found out that she had pawned ALL her jewelry (and anything else of value). Gone is the gold leaf-shaped bracelet that dad had gotten her; the platinum, diamond and sapphire ring, her wedding band, my dad’s wedding band and a number of other heirloom items that I know we will never see again. I knew at that moment that I should have NEVER given her that jewelry back. >back story< A number of years ago when my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the bills were coming in – mom asked that I safe guard her jewelry to prevent her from pawning it – upon his death I returned it to her. Ironic that I now discover that she’s done just that, pawned it all.

During our visit we also discovered she had very little food in the house. Here was a woman that raised me and did without things many times so I could have something I wanted/needed and now stood in front of me asking if I could take her grocery shopping since she had nothing of substance in the house. My husband and I agreed that we would re-stock her groceries – ONLY IF she agreed that everything came to a halt (*side note – the Jamaican Jerk called while I was standing in the dinning room and she was close by on the porch – I could hear her end and how she kept telling him that “I can’t ask my daughter for money – she’s buying me food”). This was the first time we had confirmation that the bastard was actually trying to get her to ask me for money. I think it was fate that interceded at that moment to allow me to hear this conversation. After she hung up – she confessed that she had tried to stop and kept telling the Jamaican Jerk that she had no money – but he was persistent and I know for a fact he threatened her in order to keep her on a short leash. She said she hoped he would stop calling soon. This whole time I’m thinking: not enough money for groceries – but give the Jamaican Jerk a hundred bucks on the promise of a new car; not enough money for her glaucoma drops – but make sure the Jamaican Jerk gets money on the promise of a lottery windfall. The Jamaican Jerk was living high on the hog and she was at rock bottom (and me along with her). This was again one of those things that I never thought would happen. My mom – silently begging for me to help her.

After restocking the house with groceries – our next visit was to the cable company. In our conversation the night before – we (all of us) agreed that her phone needed to be shut off immediately. I thought about just opening a new account in my name – but my husband had the voice of reason and said just cancel it and we’ll get her a cell phone under our existing account. That’s exactly what we did. Finally, I felt a (very) small sense of relief that we could get a handle on this situation.

As of the date of this post – mom is getting use to a cell phone and I’ve initiated parental controls on the line in order to monitor her calls and block anything as needed. The reason for this – almost immediately after getting the new phone (and number) mom called a local friend named Betty (I verified this). Not long after that – weird calls and then the familiar (876) area code numbers from Jamaica began to appear on the new cell phone. Coincidence? I think not. I’ve told mom my concerns about her friend Betty; that I’ve blocked the new cell number from being viewed on calls she makes; not to answer calls from numbers that begin with “876” or from numbers she doesn’t recognize. I feel like a broken record.

This is an ongoing battle and I have every intention of WINNING, and as such – below is information that I feel compelled to share.

“Little Miss Ray of Sunshine” 

For information purposes: the following are just a few Jamaican Scammers phone numbers and a few others who have been trying their best to scam from within the U.S borders:

(876) 438-2476 (Jamaica)
(876) 569-1375 (Jamaica)
(876) 792-8285 (Jamaica)
(876) 469-7664 (Jamaica)
(405) 736-6331 (Oklahoma City, OK)
(630) 489-9130 (Aurora, IL)  

In review & for the record – my own brand of justice

Dear Friends: I’ve now reached the point in my story where it is the beginning of June 2013. Unfortunately, I know for a fact that this is far from over. The only calls I’ve received from mom since our trip to visit her have been to ask for extra money. On those rare occasions, she’s always told a definitive “No”. It takes all my strength and reserve to do so and to not picture the 76 year old woman who raised me, cared for me when I was sick, was proud of me when I graduated college and shed a tear for me when I walked down the aisle. I distance myself from that imagery, so that I can dish out my own brand of “tough love”. Trust me, that is one “dish” that is hard to serve. *Update – as of the end of June 2013 – I finally had the guts to sit down and figure out how much money my mom has been through since this began. All totaled – to date she has “given away” more than $19,800 dollars (and still counting), roughly $6,800 coming from my husband and I. I have no record of the money she borrowed from others aside from what a few have told me and that is not included in this figure.-

For the record, my moms basic utility bills continue to be paid on a regular basis. (*side note: she has recently managed to figure out that if she calls the bank directly, she can get them to transfer money to her card. This has caused a recent problem with her not having enough money in her account to pay her phone bill – I say if there’s one bill that can go unpaid – it’s that one.*) I am also transferring any remaining funds not used for paying bills to her card each month. I’ve been told by a number of people that it’s her money and I can’t stop her from giving it away to these criminals – my sincere hope is that by giving her ONLY what is leftover after her bills are paid and nothing additional from our savings; that these scammers will eventually lose interest.

For the record, I’ve spoken to so many three letter acronyms over the past few months, that I wanted to share exactly who I contacted and what I was told by each. 

  • Local State Attorney General Officereceived information on how to prevent
  • U.S. Attorney General – received information on how to prevent
  • Local FBI Office – no response*
  • Local Sheriff’s Office – sympathetic, have her committed, let her hit rock bottom
  • U.S. Marshals Servicesympathetic, let her hit rock bottom
  • U.S. Secret Service – sympathetic, offered advise concerning the phone and mail issues and stressed contacting the US Postal Inspector; offered to perhaps do an intervention since they know this is a huge problem across the nation – but can’t commit to a specific time to do so since they’re swamped by cases*
  • FTC – filed complaint
  • IC3 – filed complaint
  • U.S. Postal Inspector – filed complaint

 *Understandably, most of these offices are busy with more important things. As I’ve said to some, I understand that we are a small fish in a big pond.
 

It pretty much boils down to the same answer from all: “we can only help IF your mom is willing to ADMIT there is a problem and that she is being scammed”. Most told me to “let her hit rock bottom” or have her committed – but always with the caveat to use caution in doing so since it may cause more harm (legally) for my husband and I than good. The one problem that we have, is that we haven’t been able to figure out exactly where “rock bottom” is in all of this. Will that mean that once she runs out of money for her medications, groceries and gas – she’ll stop? Or, does that mean that I should allow her to go back to paying her own bills (which she now insists she wants to do) and let her fall so far behind that she faces loosing everything? I haven’t been able to get “get comfortable” with the second option just yet, since she’s still my mom and I will always be someone I care about and love.

Thank you for being kind enough to “listen” to my story. Please know that if you need someone to listen to yours, I’m here. Since this is the “last” of my story I will post for now, the rest of my time on this blog will be devoted to getting the message out to others about scammers and the resources folks should utilize for assistance. My goal is to create a “one-stop-location” for those in need of an answer to the biggest question of all:

What do I do now??!

“Little Miss Ray of Sunshine”