Scammers Patrol Classifed Ads Seeking Elderly Targets

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Tam CoverCLICK HERE
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We placed the ad in the Sierra Vista Herald, seeking live-in domestic help. Elderly? Yes, technically we’re all that. The scammers have no way to know we’re not vulnerable targets, though. The first response to our ad hit my email inbox the second day after the ad began to run…and it reeked of scam. We know the stink, can identify it on first reading, but obviously that’s not true for everyone.

I say “obviously” because the scammers wouldn’t be doing this sort of thing if they weren’t making money at it.

The scam trade is apparently a growth industry. A close friend of mine who is a member of a sizeable online dating site tells me that his informal reading of hundreds of profiles on the site leave him with the impression that something like 85 percent of all members are scammers, not real people looking for real hookups. He further states that it wasn’t always that way; a decade or so ago, the scammers on the site were few and far between.

Anyone’s email inbox is likely to get hit with a solicitation or two. I’m monitoring our junk folder just in case a real applicant for our job opening sends something our email program identifies as other than legitimate. We wouldn’t want to miss the one person who happened to be a perfect fit for Pam and me. A few days ago, one of those classic Nigerian scam letters had arrived–except that this one was from another African country, not Nigeria specifically. The sender had (supposedly) inherited $6.5 million from her parents and wanted me to have a third or more of that for helping her “invest the rest in America”. Of course, I’d need to send her $500 first, just to prove I was real and all that….

We know of one family member who, as a 76 year old widower, actually bit on a scam like that one. He’s since passed on, perhaps from the humiliation.

But I digress. Back to the scammer who had seemingly been trolling the Sierra Vista Herald classified ads. I’m 70 years of age. My 63 year old wife has Alzheimer’s Disease. She’s in the early middle stages, still very much aware of her own identity and the identities of her loved ones but often confused about “simple” day to day things that most of us take for granted. The disease has progressed to the point that we agreed it was time to bring in some help to (a) keep her covered, safe, and secure 24/7 and (b) keep me from wearing completely out.

The Help Wanted ad, which will keep running, reads like this:

Elderly couple seeking live-in companion for disabled wife. Country living off grid, no close neighbors, plenty of wildlife. Duties include light housework, no heavy lifting. No experience required; we will train the right person. Personality fit more important than background but must be drug free. Email letter of interest with contact info to ———-@——-.com

We haven’t had a legitimate response yet, which is understandable. People looking to work as live-in help of any sort constitute a very small slice, overall, of the available work force out there. My second wife and I, some decades ago, worked in two different intervention group homes as live-in houseparents. One facility was in South Dakota (1974-75) and one was in Wyoming (1979-80). We were hired both times because, bluntly put, there was no competition. No one else applied for the openings. Adding that to the off grid factor–hard core country folks aren’t that plentiful, either–we’re not expecting to be overwhelmed with applicants.

The scammers, however, don’t have to worry about any of that. They’re not figuring to visit the Border Fort.

It did surprise me just a wee bit, though, to find out the trolls were fishing in such a small market as Sierra Vista, Arizona. They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere!

Now, let’s study the email we got. First the heading, which read as follows:

    Re: Referring to your ad on sierra Herald

That alone was enough to reject even a legitimate applicant. Why? Because the command of English is poor. Native writers of even moderate skill do not refer to an ad “on” a newspaper (whether hard copy or online version). The correct word is “in”. It could be “…on Sierra Vista Herald.com” but only if referenced in that manner. Secondly, “sierra” is not capitalized. Thirdly, “Vista” is not included at all.

The text of the “letter of interest” was even more revealing:

Hello my name is Hope Chistiansen I would like to know more details about all your need, I’m a CNA looking for more work. If you would like to meet up give me a call at (928)2196705, I would love to meet you! Thank you for your time ans have a great day.

Were that a contact letter written by an English student, even a high school student, it would (or at least should) be graded an F at best. My friend informs me that this is classically typical of the scammers, that further communication (if any) usually reveals progressive degradation in command of the English language, and that ignoring the data that inspired them to try to hook a sucker is also typical. That is, our classified ad clearly identifies our need for “live-in” help, yet he (the scammer) talks about “looking for more work” when he gives his location as a town more than 300 miles from our home base.

The "first scammer's" email response to our classified ad for live-in help.

The “first scammer’s” email response to our classified ad for live-in help.

There’s one other very important point to make in this post, which is the fact that scammers have mastered a bit of high tech, enabling them to list themselves as being from anywhere, often with a cell phone which will trace to some small town or rural area in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, you name it. The scammer who sent us the email is obviously one such expert. His number does track back to Bullhead, Arizona, that being confirmed via a simple reverse phone search on 411.com.

Reverse phone search on 411.com.

Reverse phone search on 411.com.

However, even though his number does show up there (in Bullhead City), it’s a sure bet he does not in fact reside there–or anywhere, for that matter, within the entire United States. The computer driven world of the 21st century may make it simpler for evil governments to spy on their own law abiding citizens…but it also, paradoxically, makes it simpler for evil weevils from another hemisphere to pretend to be someone, and from somewhere, they are not.

Did we report this to the authorities. No. Are you kidding? To do so would be about as effective as trying to wipe out a knapweed invasion by kicking dirt at a single plant. After taking a screen shot photograph, I simply marked it as Junk and let it go bye-bye.

When it comes to vulnerable “elderly victims”, Pam and I are at no risk whatsoever. This post was written not in sputtering indignation on our own behalf but in the hope that it might be of some value to others who are potential targets. No matter how small you think your exposure may be, the sharks are out there, circling, sniffing eagerly for a whiff of blood in the water.

4 thoughts on “Scammers Patrol Classifed Ads Seeking Elderly Targets

  1. The name trips my radar. That would be a very unlikely name to see and would cause me to take a second look at it. I have seen many of the Nigerian scammers and names with Christian in it, or that are sweet are commonly used in them. I am surprised that you would get something that is from a scammer too. It is such a small marketplace.

  2. That’s what inspired the post, that the scammers were watching such a small marketplace. Could be a sophisticated, highly successful criminal, perhaps, with a computer program that searches classified ads from around the world for “help wanted” and “elderly” or whatever. I agree, too; the name tripped my radar as well, though I didn’t say so in the article.

  3. Just this morning I had an email from someone with a very strange name. He said he and his son are originally from Libya and want to find investors to help them open a business (didn’t mention the type) in UAE. He further asked me to email him my cell number so we could discuss the investment opportunity further. Yeah, like I’m really going to do that! Oh yeah – he said he got my contact information from a business directory but didn’t mention which one. The email was riddled with poor English. He must think I took a dose of Stupid this morning. I wonder how many people actually fall for scams like these?

  4. Sha, I don’t know what the percentage of people who fall for these things might be…but it wouldn’t have to be very high for the scammers to make money. If they obtain mailing lists and send out email blasts of 10,000 at a time, just 1 in 10,000 being willing to shell out some shekels would do the trick. To their evil little minds, it’s sort of like panning for gold.

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