Monday, November 26, 2007

And I helped!

Today a young woman came into the library with one of those scam check things that we've all gotten in the mail . . . except that she was determined to get that five hundred dollars. I knew that it was a scam. And I helped her her do it. She needed an e-mail address, and I helped her set one up. I explained that she would need to call her bank for her routing number. She asked me what that was, and I told her that giving it to someone was like giving them a blank check, but it didn't phase her; all she could see was that five hundred dollars. Before she was done, she had given them all of her personal information, including her social security number, birthdate, and bank account information.

What could I do? I was hoping that her bank wouldn't give her the routing number over the phone. She ran out of computer time before she was done, and I hoped that she'd go home and someone would talk her out of it or she would read the fine print. But the circulation assistant let her have more time after she called her bank. My desk reference desk shift ended, and the woman was still on the computer and asking questions of another librarian. All I could do was walk away.

Similar situations have happened before but the library users didn't go through with them. A couple of weeks ago an almost homeless looking man came in with a postcard saying that at this website he could sign up for a credit card with a limit of a few hundred dollars and an interest rate well over twenty percent. And I helped him walk through the application. Actually, I sat down and did it for him. He was about seventy years old and had never touched a mouse. Then the company wanted his bank card information to pay the eighty-six dollar a month service charge. Fortunately, he didn't have a bank account and gave up on it.

One of my first weeks at the library this woman and her daughter came in all excited - they had won a thousand dollars worth of prizes. They just had to go online and choose the items they wanted - and pay hundreds of dollars in shipping. Fortunately, they didn't have a credit card to pay the shipping and gave up.

I never know what to do in these situations. I can't tell people what to do. I have told them to be careful of scams, but they are so excited about the money or stuff that they can't see anything else.

What is this world coming to when these companies are allowed to prey on these people desperate to have a just a little something?

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5 Comments:

Blogger daisyaday said...

I'm just curious. Why can't you tell them it's a scam?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 12:31:00 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

Actually, I do tell them "this looks like a scam; maybe you should talk to someone in your family about this," but I can't tell them not to do it. And if they need help with it, my job is to help them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger God Junkie said...

heartbreaking indeed. bless you dear one.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 1:28:00 PM  
Blogger LutheranChik said...

I work with older adults, and I know how frustrating it is to see how easily they can be bamboozled by scammers.

I might suggest to someone excited by their "free money" that they call the local sheriff's department "just to make sure" the offer is legitimate...and give them the sheriff's department number. That way you're giving them a way out while still letting them exercise their own judgment.

Monday, December 03, 2007 8:43:00 AM  
Blogger Lorna said...

good idea from Lutheranchik. But it's not easy - and I'd hate to be in your position - :(

Tuesday, December 04, 2007 1:46:00 AM  

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