Monday, September 12, 2005
The Road to Success is always under construction!
Sometimes the detours that divert you from your chosen path send you on a more scenic route. Sometimes the road not taken leads you to discoveries of sight and heart. The speed bumps are there for a reason. That unexpected stop becomes fortuitous.
Because my schedule had been changed at the last minute, I was dropping in on an unfamiliar client. Before we had introduced ourselves, the lady of the household asked a favor of me. "Well yes," I said, "What would you like me to do for you?" As a preamble she told me she was worried about their neighbors.
It seemed that two men, dressed in three-piece suits had knocked on their door about an hour before I had arrived. The men's pitch sounded legitimate and they were very sincere. The two men said they were representing The American Red Cross and other agencies to help supply relief for the victims of Katrina. While they had already given to the relief efforts, the official paperwork the men handed them convinced them that they could do more.
What a novel and wonderful thing the men had proposed. If there was any question of the men's integrity, it was quickly dashed when they handed them a check from the Red Cross in the amount of $1500. Not only would they be paid, but there would be an additional tax deduction for their contribution.
All they had to do was let the men "rent" their brand new Cadillac Escalade so that it could be used in Louisiana and Mississippi for the relief efforts in those areas affected by the disaster. The check for $1500 would cover any inconveniences to them while their vehicle was in use. Of course, they could use the money to rent a vehicle while theirs was gone. When the vehicle is returned, an official letter of accommodation from the Red Cross, the governors of those states, as well as a letter of recognition from President Bush would be presented to them.
So impressed were they with young men and their noble plan, the couple not only handed over the keys to their new Cadillac, but asked them to keep the check in lieu of donating it to the relief efforts. Like proud parents, the couple watched as the two men drove off with their SUV. They hugged each other, because their generosity made them feel good.
Stop! Stop right there!
This did not happen this way. But it could have. It is in fact one of several such scams aimed at the elderly in particular. This story actually took a divergent turn at their initial meeting with the two men. Yes, the couple did bite and were ready to swallow hook, line and sinker.
They informed the men that were celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary that same weekend. They needed their vehicle for the celebration. But they told the men that if they came back on Monday, they would be glad to participate and help their cause.
When she finished the story she said to me, "Do you think you could go talk to them and convince them that it sounds like some kind of scam?" I ask you, how could I even think of refusing? It seems that this woman and her husband had already tried to talk them out of giving their Cadillac to those men.
I said to her, "Sure, it is almost certainly a scam. By the way, I see that you and your husband have a Chevy Blazer in your driveway. Didn't they make the same offer to you?" She shook her head and said they were not approached by them. Hmm, I thought to myself. They are only wanting to "rent" new expensive vehicles. "Five will get you ten the check is no good," I said as I headed to the neighbor's house next door.
When I introduced myself and explained why I was there, they were hesitant to hear me out. I made two points that gave them pause to think it over. I mentioned the fact that they showed no interest in a ten-year-old Blazer. Then I reminded them that nobody was wanted down there in the disaster area. They only wanted authorized rescue personnel and Red Cross staff in the area. Well minded people would only get in the way of trained workers. Money, food and sundries were welcome at local collection agencies.
The fact that their neighbors and then a stranger suggested it might be a scam had them agreeing that they should reconsider. Lastly, I convinced them to call the police department and explain to them what had transpired. Needless to say, the police detectives were very interested in this charity venture. It was agreed that they would "go ahead" with the arrangement they'd made with the men. Undercover police would be there too on Monday.
Will the two men actually return on Monday? Will they play their hand in hearing distant of the hidden officers? Would they get suspicious when the couple said they changed their minds and wanted the check after all? Would they hand over the check in exchange for the Cadillac's keys? Would there be a bust and an arrest in this sting?
While I like to think that I and the neighbors helped to avert a crime, moreso we must have prevented this nice couple from some undue pain, suffering and embarrassment.
It saddens me that there are these "carnivores" out there who would prey upon the weak, especially the elderly. But it saddens me even more that there are those victims who succumb to these jerks, in essence making their "work" easier.
I am not due back there until Wednesday, and I will be anxious to know what happens Monday.
Curmudgeon responsible for this post: Hale McKay at 1:30 AM