Written by Pat Ayers, July 14, 2019

“I’m an 81 year old woman, a 42 year school teacher and guess what? I got scammed! I am tired of the seniors being preyed on.” Bea Brown is not going to stand for the continued predation on senior citizens in her community of Shelton, Washington. Mrs. Brown reports she has avoided multiple scam attempts. “But this time they got me.”

“This time they hit something precious to me,” she stated. In the mid-1960’s Bea developed a game that made learning math fun and improved student grades. Since the deaths of her husband and son, Bea has focused on bringing her game to market. The culprits sent a message to Mrs. Brown, ostensibly from an acquaintance who is a local attorney. The message said Publisher’s Clearinghouse had a $150,000 grant for her. The message also instructed her to “listen to this guy and do what he says if you want the money.”  Mrs. Brown believed a friend was helping her find funding to realize her dream.

She was instructed to buy a $500 Amazon gift card and send a photo of the front and back of the card to “William”. She was told this was needed to process the grant. To her, spending $500 to get $150,000 seemed like a small price to pay to make her dream a reality. It wasn’t long and “William” was asking for either six more $500 Amazon cards or $3,000. It was at this point Mrs. Brown knew she had been swindled. When she refused to pay, she began receiving harassing text messages. When she attempted to retrieve the messages to show them to law enforcement they had been deleted from her phone. “Your contact list is their way to get more contacts, usually living away from you.”

She filed police reports; however the police were not hopeful they would be able to do much because the perpetrators are usually not in the same jurisdiction as those whom they prey upon. Mrs. Brown says that she has “heard close to 20 people in my church have been scammed.”  That is when she decided she was going to tell her story. “I want everyone to know what happened to me so it won’t happen to them.”

“Any form or person contacting you or asking a lot of personal information, find someone to help you. I wish I had. I was encouraged to contact Publisher’s Clearinghouse to let them know about the scam.”

While providing information for this article, Mrs. Brown’s home security devise announced, “Your Social Security has been suspended due to suspicious activity.” We called the Social Security Office and Mrs. Brown was informed the message was a scam.  She was directed to file a complaint with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at https://oig.ssa.gov/reportor 800-269-0271. The OIG referred her to the Identity Theft Hotline at 877-438-4338; however the report must be completed online at https://www.identitytheft.gov/

If you have questions related to scams you can get more information from the Federal Trade Commission at:  https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts.  AARP also has a Fraud Watch Network helpline at 877-908-3360 and online at https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/.