Dear Annie: Scammers target elderly

Dear Annie: My 81-year-old mom and I live together. I work 52 hours a week, so she is home alone a lot. She does get picked up by friends a few times a week to play bingo.

But something serious has happened. A guy started an online chat with her on a “Words with Friends” game. She chatted back, and by the fourth chat he had asked for her for personal information such as her email address and phone number.

Now they text every day, and she thinks she’s in love with him. He’s supposed to be a military peacekeeper in Baghdad, who has a suitcase he found with $5 million in it. He asked her to pay a fee of $1,250 to have the suitcase sent to our home until he’s out of the military. She will not believe me when I tell her it’s a scammer.

She sent him the money last week. She only gets $1,200 a month from her Social Security.

She won’t Google the name of the person to whom she sent the money. Now he apparently needs $10,000 for attorney fees. I found the receipt in her room, and, guess what? It’s from Nigeria, not Iraq. I figured my mom knew better than this. She hasn’t even met the guy she’s been texting these past six weeks.

I don’t know what to do! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. — Concerned Daughter

Dear Concerned Daughter: It sounds like your mom is lonely, and going to bingo a few times a week is not enough human interaction for her. Look for local community resources for your mother. Reach out to some of her friends to see if there are other activities they might enjoy together.

You sound like a very hardworking daughter. Consider reconnecting with your mom, and taking a little time for yourself, by taking your mom to the theater or a comedy show — something that you both might enjoy.

However, you have a right to be concerned about her finances. Scams that prey upon the elderly are all too common. They target people who are looking for connection and purpose, which is what it sounds like your mother is craving. If she refuses to listen to you, reach out to the authorities, such as the Adult Protective Services.

They provide help and advice for people who are being tricked out of their savings.

Editor’s note: “Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.