Just after my husband Peter died, my accountant warned me about being scammed. I thought I was pretty smart about this and assured him, and the estate attorney, I would not be conned into signing anything without checking with an advisor.
But then, things began to happen. I got a note in the mail that I thought was a condolence note. I opened the envelope to find a hand-written note saying: "I'm sorry to be writing you at a difficult time. A relative of mine (yeah, sure) is looking to buy a house. I'm writing you regarding your house. Would you please let me know if you are interested in selling?" She proceeded to give her cell phone info and then charmingly added "There is not a commission for you." Oh, and she signed it "All the best." This is not the first one of these I have gotten nor will it be the last, but it was the most repugnant. To date I have gotten five notes from this outrageously ill-mannered real estate hustler.
A widow friend of mine received a notification from her local gas company telling her they were turning off her gas supply. Apparently since the bills were in her husband's name, and he was deceased, they were turning off the gas to the house. Not only is she a widow, now she is now a widow without heat! I quickly had my utilities put in my name the next day!
The most egregious violation to my widowhood involved a car company, who shall be nameless for the purpose of my story. Peter and I leased cars on a monthly basis from a very popular company. After Peter died, I couldn't bear to look at his car in the driveway. I called the car company and asked if they would pick it up. This turned out to be a huge mistake! To all widows or widowers, take your car to CarMax and they will give you the blue book value of the car and you can pay off your lease. I wish I had known this fact but all I wanted to do was get the car out of my driveway ASAP. Clearly I wasn't schooled in the cardinal rule for widows and widowers: "don't make any rash decisions!" I called the local dealership and spoke to a woman who had the feelings of a soggy doughnut, and shouted at me "we can't help you lady, call the financial leasing people" and then proceeded to hang up on me. I called the financial people and went through the lease info. I asked them to please pick up the car ASAP, thinking I would be out of the lease since it was a year-old car with barely 3,000 miles on it. It was clear to me that the company could easily resell this fabulous car and make a tidy profit.
A few days after they took the car, I received a note from debt collectors in the mail saying that Peter's estate was responsible for thousands and thousands of dollars! I was horrified. Then I got a call from the same debt collector lawyers asking if I was the responsible party for Peter's estate. I said I was and then they told me I had an outstanding debt. I asked about which debt was outstanding. They replied I had to answer security questions before I could find out. I hung up hearing my accountant's voice telling me to watch out for scams.
I am still negotiating with this heartless and cold company with the aid of a friend who is working pro bono and making a case for elder abuse I hate that I am "elder" but I like that we have a shot at making them settle.
We are all open to scams in the mail, on the phone, and on the web. What is really horrendous is that these heartless people are evil enough to go after someone who is vulnerable. How low can you go?