In Europe, telephone scammers target vulnerable old people

Old black man

The modern-day thief no longer needs a gun or a cudgel. A long list of telephone numbers can eventually lead him to his target and access to ill-gotten funds.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

I have known her for years. She is an elderly, unmarried lady, now retired from a successful professional career and living alone on the outskirts of a large city.

Every week she goes to her local bank branch and withdraws the same modest sum of money to meet her current needs.

So the bank teller was surprised when on her most recent visit she asked to withdraw no less than £10,000 in cash. It was to pay for her nephew’s wedding, she said.

Fearing something was not quite right, the bank clerk telephoned the customer’s niece, who holds power of attorney over the old lady’s financial affairs. Quickly she learned that there was no wedding, indeed no nephew.

The assumption is that this was a telephone scam attempt by unknown persons. 

Mild mental problems 

The old lady suffers from mild mental problems of the Alzheimer type and in fact had been conned out of a large sum once before, though the bank had managed to retrieve the money.

These are difficult situations both for victims and for their families, often members of the younger generation living in different, sometimes distant, cities.

The old folk cherish their independence, often unaware of their vulnerability; the family is reluctant to lean too heavily on their kindly old aunt, grandad or whoever.

This particular old lady is now recovering from a fall and decisions will be taken to ensure her physical safety and the security of her assets.

What remains is a feeling of deep dismay that the world contains people who will happily enrich themselves at the expense of helpless old folk who have done them no harm.

The modern-day thief no longer needs a gun or a cudgel. A long list of telephone numbers can eventually lead him to his target and access to ill-gotten funds.

* * *

Blanket coverage of the coronation yesterday touched on every conceivable aspect of the great event as King Charles III became the 40th monarch to be crowned in Westminster Abbey since 1066.

Radio and television touched on the lordly and the common, invitees and the missing, the political and the historical, including recollections by a dwindling number of Britons of the last such ceremony 70 years ago.

I have to confess to being among that number, then a young reporter charged with describing for my newspaper how the small, Northern seaport which I then covered celebrated the coronation of Queen Elisabeth II.

It was Tuesday, June 2, 1953, and television had recently begun to arrive in Britain in a big way. 

Thus anyone who had a TV set, tiny by modern standards and probably black and white, suddenly became the most popular person in the street.

Outside, my main memory was of the rain. 

It pelted down most of the day and my overcoat got soggier and soggier as I tramped around town, tracking down street parties which were hurriedly moved into church halls or under canvas.

Nobody was unduly disturbed, however, since planning for rain is part of the British psyche. What’s more, I got to eat a lot of cakes, not to mention coronation chicken to take home for my supper.

The next day, my newspaper led its coverage with a front-page photo of “our smiling Queen”, while my day-long labours were rewarded with a couple of paragraphs tucked away inside amidst the mountains of local news reports.

A footnote on the passage of time is provided by a glance at the cost of The Northern Echo on June 3, 1953, which was two pence. 

The price today: 105 pence.

* * *

Why are marriage jokes always so cynical?

During a chat with an old friend about relationships, the wife sighed and said, “If something happened to Bob, I don’t think I could ever marry again.” 

The friend nodded sympathetically.

“I know what you mean,” she said, “once is enough.”

Marriage is like a deck of cards. At first all you need are two hearts and a diamond. Ten years later you wish you had a club and a spade.

Wife: How would you describe me? 


Wife: What does that stand for?

Husband: Adorable, Beautiful, Cute, Delightful, Elegant, Fashionable, Gorgeous and Hot. 

Wife: Oh, thank you. What about IJK? 

Husband: I’m Just Kidding.

They’re just kidding.