Keep On Keepin’ On

Financial terrorism

It’s like she has been hypnotized by the people over the phone. Hypnotized to create obsessive behavior to get them money.

I am writing to alert of an issue about financial scamming, that many already are aware of, in attempts to educate those like myself who had no idea this was occurring in our country. 

On Saturday May 11, while speaking to my Mom on the phone, I noticed she had aphasia (inability to speak clearly) after my Uncle had called me to report she was “walking funny”.  I, being in Illinois and she being in Minnesota, called the police to do a wellness check on her.  The paramedics visited but my Mom remained at home as evidently they could not find anything wrong and she refused, against medical advice, to go for further evaluation. Even though I asked the police officer if he was concerned about her safety driving, he reported nothing could be done. On Sunday, I began calling her medical clinic attempting to set up an appointment with a Neurologist for Monday. She stayed at my Uncle’s house Sunday.  While driving to Minnesota, I received a call that she finally agreed to go to the hospital where bilateral subdural hematoma’s were identified.  Neurosurgical intervention occurred Tuesday. 

During these events, my Uncle noticed multiple Google play & iTunes cards around her house. With his experience working at a gas station, he knew scammers are usually involved when people are repeatedly buying multiple cards. One of the police officers involved reported that the back is scratched off to expose the code &, when a photo is texted, the money goes directly into the scammers accounts, completely untraceable.  Evidently because wire transfer companies became associated with criminal activity, certain changes were made by the companies to stop criminal activity through that avenue & now scammers use these cards. These cards were everywhere in my Mom’s house, often with receipts still attached.  So far, there are at least 153 cards totaling $12,750 with multiple additional cards of unknown value also found. 

While attempting to figure out what bills needed to be paid, I noticed checks written for large amounts of money to names I did not recognize. Check amounts varied between $2,000 up to $20,000 & 10 checks were completely missing. 

Part of the delay in getting my Mom medical attention was her fearful perseverance in getting money to these individuals & attending to their constant text messages, phone calls, face time calls, even calls to her house phone. She appeared fearful & panicky although verbalizing to my Uncle & me “they are my friends & they need help.”  She has since become more cautious and seems to better understand the harm they have done but it’s still challenging because of the cognitive impairments due to her head injury. 

While at my uncle’s house the night before going to the hospital & the proceeding days, her iPhone and 2 tablets were taken by us family.  Some of these numbers called 10-20 times per hour.  There were multiple numbers however, as I looked at her phone records, there were 3-4 numbers who had been calling and/or texting multiple times per day starting February 8, 2019.  Shortly before then the only out of the ordinary event was a meeting with a volunteer group, Crew 52, at about that time in preparation for the Final Four. I don’t know if this is where she crossed paths with someone who she began communicating with.  Primarily 3 specific numbers called and/or texted her.  As I further investigated, any additional numbers contacting her were associated with the same persons. She attempted blocking some of the individuals with reported help from co-workers. She started using AT&T call protect but any blocked numbers did not seem to make a difference. One Twitter user was blocked which also appears to be associated with several of the phone numbers.  This individual appears to simply have opened a different Twitter account April 2019.  It is unclear to me if she realized it was the same person.  All of them acquired quite of bit of information from her during what would appear on the surface as simple conversation and “harmless” photos (ie her car, her house, marathon photos of me with bib number). It appears they were using grooming strategies.  On 4/7/2019, while she was in a Minneapolis skyway, they ask her to send a photo of her and of the street level of the skyway.  She unfortunately complies. I can remember my Mom reporting to me at the time of a group of men she talked to who “just happened” to have a lot in common including going to the same college as me and someone who knew my Dad (died many years ago).  I believe the man is connected with the individuals but since there is no one investigating her case, it’s hard to know for sure. On that same day 4/7/19 in her phone, photos appear of the man who supposedly “knew” my Dad & who she says “reminds me of your Dad”.  While going to & being in the hospital, she perseverated on trying to get in contact with him or us family contacting him. She wanted him added to her approved hospital visitor list. 

My Mom has always been very financially savvy, frugal, & wary of any scammers.  It is unclear when or how her 2 head injuries occurred but clearly appear to have led to the decline in cognitive ability to continue to ward off these scammers. All of her accounts were compromised including bank, credit cards, AT&T account (5 lines were added & now monthly bill is over $800), email including password, Twitter account, & the list keeps growing. Because she physically did some of it, some companies do not consider it fraud. The office of the president of AT&T refuses to close the 5 lines since I am unable to bring the phones and watch to the store (they were sent to an address in Pennsylvania by my Mom after being delivered to her house and after she refused to send them to a Dubai address).  Another AT&T representative reported the newly opened lines could be closed for $1,000 per line. This is even after I am pointing out to them of the criminal activity that is being committed with the phones & with these lines by further scamming other individuals. 

Addresses I have found so far include California, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Dubai, Nigeria, India, Italy.  

A new address in Washington has been added to the list. While forwarding her mail to my Illinois address, replacement credit cards had been sent for my Moms account but with both cards having a different name. I suspected her mailbox was being used but this further confirms my suspicion. 

I am writing this in hopes to at least alert others. I hope family members will become alarmed when seeing dozens or hundreds of Google play or iTunes cards laying around the home of their loved one. If just 50 people in the U.S. are scammed of $12,000, that totals $600,000.  Over a half a million dollars gone!  Gone from the bank accounts of persons either cognitively impaired or by those with philanthropic hearts wanting to help people who are lying to them.  If these people lose all of their money to these terrorists, how will they pay for food, medications, Doctor’s visits?  This scamming therefore leads to physical harm. Some people are also at risk for charges of money laundering by becoming involved with these scammers who “promise to pay back money directly into your account . . . once I receive bank account number and routing number.”  

People in the U.S. have the perception we are safe, far away from terrorism overseas. But the terrorists are here in the U.S. with the help of local individuals to make physical contact with people who are unable or eventually give up resisting their efforts. 

I am not sure what the answer is to all of this.  But I do know if, by sharing this story that others become aware of these scammers, it is worth it. Perhaps others’ can be saved from losing thousands of dollars.  It is worth it if just one persons’ identity can be saved from being stolen & shared internationally. 

I thought the challenge I faced was her head injury. Instead it has been significant infiltration to ALL of her accounts in addition to post head injury recovery. Because of her head injury, she does not understand why I took away her phone, tablets, “connection” to the world. I gave her a phone that can only make and receive calls from preprogrammed numbers. Already she is trying to figure out how to add numbers and, by her silence when I ask who should be added, clearly seem to be the same persons I am trying to keep her safely away from. I am so grateful for my experience with head injuries but I cannot say my experience makes all of this less frustrating. I just better understand these behaviors are not my Mom.

Please help your loved one!  Particularly be vigilant if they are cognitively impaired or have overly philanthropic hearts. If you saw someone on the street being hustled for money, you would likely step in to say something. Smart phones or tablets are now that street.  For fear of embarrassment, your loved one might resist your help or hide their actions in attempts “to help” their new “friend”.  Plug away anyhow at getting them help. If just one person is saved from this experience, I consider it a win of at least $12,000. As follows are Minnesota resources gathered during this experience if you find yourself in this situation. 

– your local police department.  Make sure to keep the case number on you for other reports. 

– Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center (MAARC): 1-844-800-1574 where “the general public can call to report suspected maltreatment of vulnerable adults.”

 ic3.gov: FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center

 fcc.gov: for filing a complaint regarding unwanted calls. “By filing a consumer complaint & telling your story, you contribute to federal enforcement & consumer protection efforts on a national scale & help us identify trends & track the issues that matter most.” 

 ag.state.mn.us: Minnesota Attorney General website with Consumer Assistance Request Form & Fraud Report Form.  When filled out & printed out, mail to: Office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, 445 Minnesota St, suite 1400, St Paul, MN 55101.  

– Center for Excellence in Supported Decision Making & Protective Services through Volunteers of America Minnesota & Wisconsin.  voamn.org. Services can benefit “an adult experiencing neglect of their own needs, abuse or exploitation, dementia or impaired cognitive functioning, lack of insight into their own needs, difficulty managing finances, isolation, family & professional care systems.”

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