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Thursday, June 19, 2008

How Low Can You Go?

Hat Tip: Vos Iz Neias

A 23 year old yeshiva bochur was arrested shortly after Shavout (you know, the holiday that follows the learning of Pirkei Avot, a work that focuses on yashrut) on the campus of Beth Medrash Govoha. The crime? A sweepstakes scam. Sadly, there are too many stories of financial crimes in the frum community. But, this is an all new low in my opinion because it involves defrauding a single individual, a 78 year old man. I will not defend those organizations and individuals who defraud the government. But, at least they aren't going after elderly individuals when they dream up their scams.

Sweepstakes scams tend to target elderly people. Basically, someone calls with good news that you are a recipient of a prize, but in order to claim it you need to send money to hold the prize. Elderly people tend to be more trusting and can get caught up in these scams more easily that younger people. They also are more vulnerable with the Internet and can be highly vulnerable to scams perpetrated through the email. This is definitely something to think about if you are planning on trying to get a great-grandmother or great-grandfather computer access so they can correspond easily with the family. Fortunately, there are classes offered in many senior centers to educate the elderly on Internet usage.

The commentors at Vos Iz Neias have also sunk to a new low commenting that perhaps this man deserved to lose $35,700 because he is obviously too stupid to manage his finances. Here is one jem, "Quite frankly I don't feel bad for that idiot who fell for the scam. I have a klal, if anyone calls me to tell me that I have won any type of lottery or sweepstakes, I will tell them, send me the cheque. thats it. If you are so gulable enough as to fall prey to a scam like this, you are a fool and deserve no sympathy." Are all the mitzvot on honesty and the myriad of halachot in Choshen Mishpat worthless to this ilk of commentor?

My grandmother almost fell for a sweepstakes scam a few years before she passed away, but somehow my mother stepped in, although it just made my grandmother livid with my mother. She was not an "idiot." She did not deserve the calls and pressure from a number of unscrupulous people who surrounded her with products and offers. Her mental capacities were diminishing and I expect at some point most of us (yes, even the financial professionals among us) will also start to see our capabilities diminish. I've seen this with both my grandmothers before their death. At a certain point we noticed they just were not managing. Things were not being filed. Check registers were not being balanced. Bills were not being paid. Overdue notices were piling up. Cash was found stuffed in magazines and books. I've noticed the same thing with elderly clients. There comes a point when they are clearly not managing and need extra help a protection. Perhaps this is a good post for a future topic.


Jewish Blogmeister said...

Great post. Let's see how that commentator feels when he gets scammed out of a lot of money. Horrible! I once almost fell pray to a very sophisticated scam involving real people. I didn't give them money but man I wish I could lock those people up.

Larry Lennhoff said...

In these days when everyone's status as a Jew seems called into question, I couldn't think of a better reason to question someone's lineage than that they fail to match the description that the children of Avraham are bashful, merciful, and charitable.

ProfK said...

I'm appalled that the general attitude of "blame the victim" is alive and well in Klal. As SL pointed out, the elderly members of Klal are at particular risk for the type of scheme perpetrated. Many of them do not have children living close enough to keep an eye on things for them. Neighbors and shuls need to become "extended family" in these cases. You know, actually practicing what has been taught and preached to us for ever?

Anonymous said...

Small typo you keep making - "loose" vs "lose." I wouldn't bring it up but it's a common error and brings down the quality of what is otherwise a very well-written post.

Lion of Zion said...

i was about to eat lunch. thanks for ruining my appetite.

"Her mental capacities were dminishing . . . Check registers were not being balanced."

a lot of people out there with diminished capacities

Ariella said...

So the man quoted believes the victim deserves what s/he gets if s/he is gullible enough to fall for the scam. You know, it's a machlokes between this brilliant individual and G-d. G-d's position is one of protection even of the bona fide stupid: "shomer pesaim Hashem." Separate from that, fraud is wrong and covers a myriad of sins from outright lying to deliberately misleading [gneivas da'as] to stealing [gneivas mamon], not to mention abiding by the law of the land [dina demalchutha dina].

BTW,SL, I was reminded of an earlier post of yours yesterday when I was speaking with a camp organizer. She said 8 of the checks she just deposited bounced, and said that some parents bounce check every year. I suppose they must have made up the cost, or she would not let the kids in the camp, but I wonder about all the other recipients of their habitually bounced checks.

Zach Kessin said...

I have to admit I'm not sure which bothers me more on Vois, the attitudes, or the total inability of anyone there to write an English sentence.

But I keep reading it, I think its just masochism

Child Ish Behavior said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Child Ish Behavior said...

I personally had my own feelings on the subject and I wrote a whole post on it. In my opinion they were both stupid, the bochur, for thinking he wouldn't get caught, and the old man for giving up his money three times in row before realizing it was a scam.

triLcat said...

child ish - the victim may have been unwise, but the predator was evil.

you want to equate the two?

Last I checked, naivete wasn't a crime.