In my Wednesday column in The Baltimore Sun, I follow up with more detail about the case of Mrs. Bratcher, the 87-year-old woman who was the victim of a check theft that has cost her $175,000, almost all the money she had for her quarters and expenses at an assisted living center in Carroll County, Maryland. As I stated in my first column on this, there’s a special place in Hell prepared for those who prey on the elderly. The following email, describing another way scammers got into a senior’s checking account, arrived from a reader this morning:
This story reminded me of my own parents being fleeced out of their checking account, almost 20 years ago — fortunately for only hundreds of dollars and not thousands.
They were both elderly, and not in full possession of their mental faculties. My father, who was always a generous man, was donating to every solicitation that came in the mail asking for money. And often using a check to donate. As I was overseeing their finances and paying their bills, I spotted a check which did not look right.
Fraudsters were calling their home and pretending to be bank employees asking for account numbers. They had manufactured their own checks with my parents account number/routing number. They were not the standard checks that a person typically uses to write checks. They were larger in size and looked legitimate. After a couple of months of noticing bogus checks and scanning them into my computer, I arranged a meeting at the bank. The bank immediately took action to close the account, open a new account, and claw back the latest scam check. The earlier checks could not be immediately refunded, but the bank had my mother sign an affidavit that she did not write them and the bank eventually refunded the amounts. The bogus checks were not written with their personal checks, but were written on official looking checks without a signature. The signature line was stamped “signature on file.” The bank who helped us straighten out the fraud was Riggs National Bank, eventually bought by PNC.
The whole affair was very frustrating for me. As their adult child, I did not want to take away their ability to write checks from their own account. My advice to anyone who is looking out for the elderly is to keep a sharp eye out for this kind of abuse.
A few years later, I was contacted by investigators for the FBI. I forwarded them the copies I had made of the bogus checks.