The Art of the Con

Con artists come in all shapes and sizes and colors. From any age group, profession or background. The commonality they share is they stalk their prey with a calculated precision. And those who target the elderly can be the most cunning.

My mother is a giver, with a distinctly charitable nature, which makes her an easy mark. Throughout her lifetime, she has extended her helping hands on more than one occasion, but never with too much fallout. Unfortunately, the last time was a doozie.

We first met my mother’s predator on the day the gal moved into the apartment below my mother. My husband and I were bringing my mother home after a visit to our house and ran into the gal in the parking lot. She introduced herself as “Tracy” and told us she was the director of a local eldercare facility. And while she looked the part, there was something about her that didn’t ring true.

During our brief conversation, she offered to check in on my mother from time to time. She said she understood how hard it can be to care for an elderly parent if you cannot always be there for them. And how comforting it can be to know a friendly neighbor is close by. But there was something about her offer that seemed odd and out of place to my husband and I. So, we smiled politely in response and told her we lived only a few miles away. And it was no problem for us to be there for my mother for whatever she may need, whenever she may need it.

And we thought that was the end of it. Until my mother started mentioning that “Tricky Tracy”, as my husband and I came to call her, had been stopping by. To offer to take out my mother’s garbage. Or ask if my mother needed anything at the grocery store. Or if she needed anything mailed at the post office.

Then the day came when my mother told me Tricky was in a bit of financial trouble. Her identity had been stolen and her entire bank account had been cleaned out. So she had asked my mother if she could borrow a few hundred dollars to tide her over until she could get it all straightened out. Which my mother handed to her with no questions asked. Our nightmare had begun.

My mother is an independent soul and the easiest way to encourage her to do something is to suggest she do the exact opposite. So while the alarm bells were wailing inside my head, I knew I had to tread cautiously with any advice I gave her. I told my mother she was being very charitable with her offer to lend Tricky money, but I hoped she would not make a habit of it. After all, we really didn’t know Tricky that well. My mother assured me she would not. Besides, she believed Tricky was simply a nice gal who was having a bit of bad luck.

At this point in time, my mother still had total control over her finances. And I knew there was nothing I could do to stop her from spending her money any way she chose. And the more I tried to prevent the situation from getting any worse, the more stubborn my mother became about her decision to keep handing Tricky money.

As the months ticked by Tricky gave my mother one heart-wrenching story after another. Including her promises to pay my mother back, which she never did. After more prodding and pushing on my part, my mother finally admitted to me how much money Tricky had taken from her. Almost all of my mother’s life savings. That is when I drew a line in the sand with my mother, stepped in and took control of the situation.

To make a long story short, Tricky moved out of her apartment in the middle of the night less than 24 hours after my last conversation with her. I contacted the police and learned they had received other complaints about Tricky, but since the money had always been given willingly, their hands were tied. We did take Tricky to claims court and won our case. But Tricky had spent all the money, so we were never able to recover what she had stolen. And as it turns out, she was not the director of a local eldercare facility. She was a housekeeper at a completely different eldercare facility.

The judge in our court case was very sympathetic, and gave us Tricky’s forwarding address when she did not show up for her court appearance. And so was the director of our county’s Department of Aging, who personally called each director of all the eldercare facilities in our area, not only in our county but in the surrounding counties. He gave them all the information they needed to make sure Tricky would never work again in any eldercare facility within a four-county radius.

So, why am I sharing this distinctly private and personal information?

Because our story is not unique. It was frightening to learn how often con artists masquerade as friendly neighbors or good samaritans or even caring family members to target the elderly. Their end goal is always the money. And they ply their trade with eloquence and finesse.

Losing the money was one thing. Witnessing my mother’s emotional reaction was another. For quite some time she berated herself for being so stupid. All I could tell her was that it would all be okay. And assure her the nightmare had ended.

My mother was able to recover financially. And she is no longer in control of her finances. But the emotional hit took longer. For her and for me. She still wonders how she could have been so gullible. From time to time, I still wonder what more I could have done to prevent it from happening.

However, I have come to accept the fact I cannot protect my mother from all the evils of the world. Sometimes bad stuff happens to good folk. How we react to the situation is the key. I take comfort in the knowledge that we did our due diligence in regards to Tricky Tracy. And if I can share our experience, perhaps other people will not be taken in by her kind of predator.

I do know what goes around, comes around. I just wish I could be there, like a little fly on the wall, the day it comes back around on ol’ Tricky. That would be a satisfying sight to see.

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