Scam City

23 Jun

Letterbalm Scam EnvelopeDear LetterBalm: My wife and I are retired and on fixed income. Two years ago, she started getting letters telling her she had won a lot of money in a lottery. They asked her for a fee of $20, then more letters urging her to pay $200 for “legal administrative fees” to release the funds. She was told that she must remit the fees quickly and not discuss it with anyone. She never got that lottery money, but she got more letters from lotteries, to which she sent cash. Now, she receives letters and catalogs every day, asking her to buy products. Our house is full of needless stuff, and her checking account is $2,000 overdrawn. She keeps asking for money from me, but I’ve said no. When I told her that these lotteries are scams and just tactics to sucker her in, she got angry with me and said I was ruining her happiness. I’m on the verge of staging an intervention.

–No Winning Numbers

If you believe history, Charles Ponzi – he of the “Ponzi Scheme” – started it all. Not a bit. Lotteries from Nigeria and dozens of countries, telemarketing, work-from-home schemes, precious metals for a deal, online cons, phishing – scams are embedded into human DNA. Your wife is in the grip of a powerful addiction. Similar to gambling, compulsive lottery spending and shopping have to do with unrealistic hopes of winning a big score and immediate gratification. Your wife won’t be amenable to a family intervention; she may become furious if you give her research from the FBI, Federal Trade Commission or your state attorney general. (And, if she’s a U.S. citizen entering foreign lotteries, she’s breaking federal racketeering statutes.) Ms. L.B. recommends you check with your wife’s doctor to recommend a therapist in compulsive and addictive behaviors. And, be sure your finances are protected; a $2,000 overdraft is manageable, as long as she stops her behavior. Talk with your wife, and don’t lose your cool, even if she rages:

Shirley, you and I have been married for more than 50 years, and we’ve had a good life together. You’re my whole world, and you know that. That’s why it’s so difficult for me to say that you have a serious addiction, and you need help to overcome your lottery spending and shopping. It’s out of hand. I’m not going to try and convince you with evidence from the FBI or the Federal Trade Commission about all the scams out there. I’ll just say this: You’re too intelligent a woman to continue to be a victim. It’s harming you and those who love you. I have the name of a good counselor who specializes in addictive behaviors, and I’ve made an appointment for you for this afternoon. What goes on between you and the therapist will be private, of course, but you have to take the first step, and I’ll take you to the first session.

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