There are three surefire ways to know you’re getting old.
One way is when you succumb and buy that first box of Just for Men to obscure the grey in your hair. (I did buy a box, but I swear, I never used it, never even opened it.)
Another way is when you find yourself the target of scammers seeking to separate you from whatever jack they think you have.
The third way is when you call money “jack.”
I recently received a telephone call from a gentleman informing me that, as a loyal cable customer, I qualified for a sizable discount on my service.
How much discount? I asked.
Where do I sign?
He then informed me that my cable bill would drop from $300 a month to $150 a month for six months. All I had to do, he added belatedly, was pay for the six months’s discounted service in advance.
“I’ll call you back,” I said breathlessly as I prepared to search for the wallet.
He, however, wouldn't hear of it and volunteered to wait.
Of course, I didn’t actually know where the wallet was or how long it would take to find it, so I told him I would call back and hung up.
The number from which he’d called didn’t accept calls, so I dialed the number listed online for my cable provider.
“Say, y’all reckon I can still get that 50 percent off deal?”
I explained about the terrific, money-saving deal one of their representatives had just offered, and that I now had my credit card in hand was ready to hand over $900 to continue watching Andy Griffith reruns for six months.
“Sir, we don’t have any 50 percent off deal.”
I think I may have heard a pitying laugh on the other end of the phone.
I was, she gravely informed me, the victim of a scam.
Negesti, a fraud specialist for AARP, told me that I did the correct thing – even if inadvertently.
“We suggest that when you receive a random call from a company that you do business with, hang up and call back on a known number.
“I’m not sure if you use the internet or not ” – ouch, lady: I'm not that old! – “but if you do, you can visit our website” for tips on how not to get scammed, she said.
The website, for anyone who thinks they’ve been scammed, might be scammed or who doesn’t want to get scammed, is www.aarp.org/fraud.
The scam helpline is 877-908-3360.
Not keeping my wallet or checkbook near has saved me from scams or unvetted deals before, even before I got old, like when the timeshare operators in Orlando held me hostage as I withstood their hard-sell assault.
When I tried to leave, someone shouted "He's leaving! He's leaving," and they descended upon the door to prevent my exit.
They then explained that I was legally obligated to stay and listen to their pitch for 90 minutes. Otherwise, I was on the hook for the cost of the entire three-day, two night “vacation.”
I assured them that I’d left all forms of payment back in North Carolina, but they wouldn’t turn me loose early.
Or that time I avoided the fate of friends who collectively lost tens of thousands of dollars simply because – by the time I retrieved my checkbook and counted up my change – the dude who’d offered a ridiculous return on their investment had already absconded with their money.
A story in a psychology journal states that only 24 percent of scam victims suffered financial losses – maybe I’m not the only one who doesn’t keep his wallet within easy reach - but 79 percent suffered emotionally.
I certainly have - upon realizing what a chump I almost was.
Sure, I was mortified that they figured I was old enough be an easy target, but I was even more mortified by what an easy target I almost made. In my defense, my defenses were lowered because the scammer somehow knew how much I was already paying.
Whew! To think that I avoided having my checking account wiped out simply because my credit or debit card wasn’t handy!
Picking on and exploiting old people should come with enhanced penalties, as it does for exploiting children. Along with an Amber Alert, they should add an Ambrose Alert. In the case of the fake cable guy, after he gets out of prison, he should be sentenced to 10 years of watching nothing but Friends reruns on a television with no remote control and all of the knobs broken off - and no pliers around.
That'll learn him to pick on old people.
Of course, I should’ve known the caller wasn’t legit: who ever heard of a cable company offering 50 percent off?