Thursday, March 30, 2017

Prince Charming is NOT A REAL PERSON

It’s a mystery to me how people can still fall for the same old scams that have been around for decades now. Every time I get an email from a Nigerian prince, wanting me to shelter millions of dollars for him, in exchange for a percentage, I am amazed that I still get these offers! But I know I get them because this scam is still working on somebody somewhere.

The newer scams are more insidious. They apparently appeal either to the less educated, mostly lonely older people whose children don’t visit often enough, or to na├»ve young people with minimum wage jobs desperate for a way to pay for their children to play football or be a cheerleader. Not that anyone with a caring heart  can’t be swindled, but somehow almost everyone else recognizes the inherent “cost” to the victim of these hoaxes.

I’ve known several people in the last year who have been swindled by auto leasing. Making an exorbitant car rental payment every month, that is double or more what a car payment on a good used car would be, should be criminal. I have a neighbor who is pushing 78 years old, and should have retired years ago, but who says she can’t afford to live if she does, is making a $450/month lease payment on a 2016 Honda Accord that she drives a mile and a half to work every day.

“Ethel!” I say, “You could get a CAB or an UBER to work cheaper than THAT!” (Or really, on nice days, walk It’s not that far.)

“Well, I have to have a way to get to the grocery store on Saturdays too.” Is her reasoning.

A couple of weeks ago, I learned of a disabled veteran who is on V.A. Disability, which is not even enough to pay rent and utilities. She has no food, but that we could furnish. When talking with her about budgeting, etc., we discovered that she is leasing a car for – GET THIS - $500/month! We have access to several older used cars we could give her, but her car lease is ironclad. She can’t legally get out of it. She signed a contract. Kinda like trying to get an early out of an apartment lease.

That’s just two examples. There are several more that I know of. If I know of them, there must be hundreds if not thousands of car leasing victims out there I don’t know of.

Another racket is reverse mortgages. I wasn’t sure about that, so I called one company that offers these, so I could get more information and find out how that works. That was 6 months ago, and they are STILL calling and emailing me every couple of weeks to see if  I’ve decided to do a reverse mortgage yet. In my last conversation with them, I said, “I would be a total MORON to do a reverse mortgage! You people are con men, and what you’re running over there is a total sham! You should be ashamed of yourselves. I’ll bet many people actually fall for your hustle. UNBELIEVABLE!” and hung up on them. But they are relentless in their continued onslaught.

Here’s how it works: People who own a house, or who have equity built up, and who need money now, or who can’t afford their house payment any more (because of retirement, job loss, etc.) can give their house to the bank. Well, it’s more like loaning your mortgage to the bank. The bank gives you a little lump sum “down payment”  for your house, and you can also set up payments he bank makes to you every month. They call it a “reverse mortgage” because the bank is making small mortgage payments to you, instead of you making payments to them. Remember that when YOU make a mortgage payment, most of it is interest payment. When the bank pays you, there is no interest payment, so while you aren’t making a house payment, the bank is paying only a few hundred dollars a month to YOU.

But like all scams, there’s a “catch”. The bank owns your house. Kinda. They let you live there until you move out, move into a nursing home, or die. Then the jig’s up. Your family has one month to clean out the house and sell it to pay back the money the bank gave you. If they fail to sell the house in the month, the bank owns it free and clear. Your family is out whatever equity you had in the house, and is out any profit that might have been gleaned from the sale of it.

Maybe the most cunning and heartbreaking scam of all is a phenomenon that is happening on Social Media – in particular facebook. It seems to be an extension of some of the fraud we used to see on dating sites.This is how it works: You get a friend request from (in my case usually) a middle aged male veteran. (I hear the jerks who perpetrate this hustle first study your home page, to see what kind of person you are likely to be sympathetic to, or attracted to, or vulnerable to.) Men are not immune to this scam. A man might get a friend request from a slapout gorgeous woman. My female friend got a scam friend request from a very handsome man in his late 60s, retired business owner, and living in Paris. He messaged her that he was blown away by her beautiful profile picture, and would LOVE to get to know her. She is single, and almost fell for it.

These scammers play to whatever emotion they think will pull you in. They are EXPERTS at it. If you answer their messages, or befriend them, you have swallowed the bait, and they easily reel you in. One woman I know befriended a  man who messaged her, emailed her, loved her, and flattered her for over a month before saying that his mother was ill and was stranded in Mexico. She needed money to get back home. Would she send $3000 to his mother? He would so appreciate it, and he would pay her back as soon as his stock dividend check was deposited the end of the month. The woman was so moved by the man’s love for his mother, and so upset that the sweet old lady was stranded in Mexico, sick, and with nobody to help her, that she sent $5000! She told her newfound friend that he didn’t have to pay her back. She was just happy she could help.

Of course, that “friendship” was over as soon as the money left her bank. BAM!!

Understand, I’m not against making new friends. But let me warn you: If you get a friend request from someone with whom you have no mutual friends, be smart. DELETE it and mark it as spam. If you get a friend request from someone with whom you have only one or two friends in common, ask your already friend about him/her before you accept the friend request willy nilly. Ask yourself about motive. Why is this person, who doesn’t know you from Adam’s house cat, and who doesn’t know anyone else you know, except maybe that one person you don’t really know, but with whom you play Criminal Minds, or with whom you are in a common interest group, so is therefore your “friend”,  wanting to be your facebook friend? It can’t be honorable motives.

That’s enough for now. Use your common sense. Don’t be a MARK (victim).

Guard your heart and your money. 

Friday, February 10, 2017


Sometimes something… a smell, or a picture, or a song… floods your soul with memories. 

A couple of years ago, an old friend from high school found me and reconnected. 

In my senior year of high school, I was chosen to be in the Alabama All-state Orchestra. What an honor! Because I was in the Birmingham Symphony Youth Orchestra, I was a candidate. I was THRILLED! I was first chair in my high school orchestra, and kinda full of myself.  In the Youth Orchestra I was second chair, but I knew I was better than that. Well, in the Allstate Orchestra, I was still second chair – to first chair Fleetwood McAllister.  Seriously. That was his name. His dad taught music at the University of Alabama, so I figured it was political.

The first viola was Charlie. His dad also taught at the University, and he was totally ADORABLE!

  It’s not a great picture, but good enough for you to get the idea.

Anyway, Charlie was my first mature crush. My first real “puppy love”.  Besides being an accomplished musician, he was handsome, smart, kind, funny, fun, and a gentleman. Opened doors, called my mother "Mrs. Galloway", and held my chair at restaurants. He held my hand, back when handholding was intimate. Although he lived in Tuscaloosa, before I20/59, he drove all the way to Birmingham to take me out to eat, to movies, and to Vulcan, back in the day before an elevator, where we climbed to the top, looked out over the Magic City, and where he kissed me – gently and timidly. Our first kiss. At the gift shop that day, he bought me a necklace, that I wore for many years.

I came from a firmly middle class family. My dad was a scientist and my mother a teacher. Charlie was way out of my league. But I was a teenager, and oblivious to those limitations.  I did the normal things any teenage girl did back in the day. I wrote in my diary. I wrote our initials in crossmarks inside hearts. I wrote my first name with his last name. I hugged my pillow at night, and I dreamed. That’s what girls did back then.

I graduated high school and went to college. He gradually stopped coming to Birmingham so often, and I filled my days with bridge games in the Student Union building and parties ... on yes, and some studying. We eventually lost touch.

Several years later, I happened to buy a piano from his brother, who had set up a used piano store in Birmingham. I asked about Charlie. He said, “He joined the Navy.” And that was that. End of that story.

Until 50 years later. Charlie found me. He had married. They had a couple of children, and now he is a proud grandpa. He sent pictures of his adorable grandbabies, and I was joyous with him. He crafted baby cribs, because now he no longer played the viola. He was an accomplished craftsman in woodworking. (His sister, by the way, married Fleetwood McAllister. Really.) And for 3 years we relived old times, and got re-acquainted and got to (virtually) know each other’s families. We talked on the phone. He was still the Charlie I had known all those years ago. He was gentle, kind, intelligent, talented, and loving. He bragged on his kids, and I bragged on mine. I would know his kids anywhere, just from his descriptions, and from the pictures he shared, as he would have known mine. Both of us had smart, beautiful, talented children, and we shared bragging and stories through emails and pictures. As if we were two old folks in a nursing home.

Then there was a snag… in his words:

“Just a note from a high school drop out about a life moment.

In 1964 a viola player at Alabama AlState Symphony met a cellist from Birmingham.  He was smitten.  She was a Sr in high school and he a Jr.  He really liked this young lady.   A whole lot.  Well she wouldn't want to date a high school kid next year.  As he was a terrible student and might well not graduate next year.  What's a guy to do.

 He found that if you got a GED that the U off A had to accept you like a HS grad.  So, he took the GED, applied, and got accepted.  No money, but had a job.

Well they drifted apart, both married and had two children.  They meet again on line fifty years later.  The cellist had lost her husband to brain cancer.  Now the violist has it.  His second surgery is scheduled for Thursday noon.  His faith is deep.  His spirit’s good.

Thanks to all for prayers and encouragement.”

Charlie passed away last year, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Rest in Peace, my old friend and SALUTE.  I hope we meet again someday in the hereafter. I want to kiss you one more time.  Gently and warmly.