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Monday, April 1, 2019

There’s No Fool Like an Old Fool

It seems appropriate today to consider the nature of a “fool.” After all, it is “April Fools Day.” We view the day as an annual game of mostly harmless, practical jokes that are played on others. Our potential embarrassment is supposed to be softened when the prankster states, “April Fools.”

Truth is, most people I know don’t like being fooled. Especially the folk who have been around the block a while. Thus the phrase, “There’s no fool like an old fool.” The obvious meaning is that the more seasoned among us are expected to know better than to do or be suckered by outrageously foolish things.

The origin of that proverbial saying is found in a comprehensive collection of English proverbs. This one is John Heywood's 1546 glossary, A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the englishe tongue:

“But there is no foole to the olde foole, folke saie.”

(My computer really didn't like those spellings!)

All of us seniors can take a good practical joke or two. It’s part of the fun of life. And we enjoy pulling an innocent fast one on grandkids once in a while.

Where it stops being funny and harmless is when it comes to taking people’s money. The National Council on Aging offers advice on a number of topics to seniors. One article particularly worth noting is titled, “Top 10 Financial Scams Targeting Seniors.”

In the opening summary they write, “Financial scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that they’re now considered ‘the crime of the 21st century.’” Why? Because seniors are thought to have a significant amount of money sitting in their accounts.

Many of these scams apparently go unreported for a couple of reasons. One, because they are either difficult to prosecute or, two, they are considered “low-risk” crime. These can particularly hurt the elderly who are short on time to recoup losses.

Think it’s only strangers targeting seniors? Not so. The NCOA reports “Over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by an older person’s own family members, most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others.” Thieves are equal opportunity criminals as well, targeting both the low income crowd as well as the wealthy.

So what’s on the the NCOA “Top 10 Financial Scams Targeting Seniors?” Here’s the list and links to each can be found in the article:
  1. Medicare/health insurance scams
  2. Counterfeit prescription drugs
  3. Funeral & cemetery scams
  4. Fraudulent anti-aging products
  5. Telemarketing/phone scam
  6. Internet fraud
  7. Investment schemes
  8. Homeowner/reverse mortgage scams
  9. Sweepstakes & lottery scams
  10. The grandparent scam

Since I recently went on Medicare, that one is certainly worth knowing about. Here’s what happens: “In these types of scams, perpetrators may pose as a Medicare representative to get older people to give them their personal information, or they will provide bogus services for elderly people at makeshift mobile clinics, then use the personal information they provide to bill Medicare and pocket the money.”

Another one that intrigued me is “the grandparent scam.” Here, a call is made to an elderly person. When the phone is picked up, the caller says something like, “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” After the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of a grandchild with similar voice tones, “the fake grandchild will usually ask for money to solve some unexpected financial problem to be paid via Western Union or MoneyGram, which don’t always require identification to collect.” The scam artist also begs the grandparent “please don’t tell my parents, they would kill me.”

The Bible offers this review of the evil pranksters, “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!’” (Proverbs 26:18-19, ESV)

Proverbs 11:3 gives us the end game for deceivers, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” (ESV)

Need I say, “No foolin'!”

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