Scams Against the Elderly are Going Unchecked in Our Suburbs!
Too hard to prove. Too sleazy to catch. Leaving victims too embarrassed and ashamed to report it.
Dear 'Tom the Tree Man' (...or whoever you are this week)
Firstly, thank you for kindly offering your services at the home of an elderly client of mine, Mrs Maria Popova, approximately six months ago.
Lovely Maria is a proud, but humble, opera-singing Bulgarian-born lady who is 89 years old and lives alone in her large family home. Although suffering a smidge of arthritis and prone to the odd fall (understandable when you're classed as legally blind), she is still very independent and in fairly good nick for an old 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 that you turned up on her doorstep one day, out of the blue, like you did. Straight after that huge storm we had a while back, when so much destruction was caused in the area by some pretty horrific winds.
Oh, what a godsend you were, Tom!
You told Maria that THIS might happen, Tom
How else would Maria have ever have known that the large eucalyptus tree in her backyard was leaning so perilously close to her bedroom window?
And that one more big gust and her ENTIRE HOUSE COULD BE DESTROYED, didn't you say, Tom?
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 one with the pansies on it. Coincidentally, the exact amount you required to start the job, Tom - $2000! A bargain, considering how the now terrified Maria's life could be at stake if the work didn't get done by Friday.
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!
To be honest, finding people that actually do care as much as you do, Tom, is pretty thin on the ground these days. Especially hearing all the 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 due to the inevitable health issues associated with Ageing.
And then these fraudsters who just randomly turn up at people's doors, unscrupulously offering so-called urgent maintenance on 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, 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 'suggested' to do for Maria?
It's sad (and scary) to think that older adults living alone are such easy targets to these con artists, merely because they trust people.
Such a nasty world out there, Tom, when you think about it.
To know that someone could sink that low?
Nothing suspicious about this van.... NO, NOT A THING!
But 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 needed to get that pesky tree down before it did any major damage.
SHE STUCK BY YOU, TOM!
Even when the contact details on your 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 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 the tree could never have been a threat to Maria's home. Even if it did fall over – it just wasn't bloody big enough!
Sadly, Tom, in the last month or so, I have noticed a change in our lovely Maria. She is quieter than she used to be; she seems fearful and she's lost a lot of her confidence, relying on outside help in her daily routine a lot more than she 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 Senior Citizens club. Instead she prefers to 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. Just, heart-breaking.
Anyway, Tom, thanks again for all you've done. When last I heard, Maria's home had been sold and she had been re-located into an aged-care facility situated miles away from the life she once knew and loved.
In the meantime, just one question... sorry, Tom.
Because I know you're such a busy and important man...
Would you mind if some devious little snot did this to YOUR dear old Mum?!?!
Yours, in Disgust (and on behalf of beautiful but broken Maria)