Editorial: Cold-hearted predators

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Friends and relatives of the elderly know they’re especially vulnerable to accidents or injuries during winter freezes or summer heat waves. That’s also the case during economic storms.
Case in point: Wednesday’s story about an elderly Rowan County man who was scammed by a group of suspects who had the audacity to take him into a bank to withdraw money and into stores to make purchases. By convincing the victim they were relatives, police say, the perpetrators were able to coerce him into handing over money they spent on crack cocaine and cigarettes.
It sounds outlandish and bizarre. Unfortunately, it’s an all-too-common occurrence. Scammers and con men often prey on the elderly for the same reason that jackals stalk the weakest member of the herd. The elderly are often more vulnerable and more easily intimidated than others ó and in some cases they live more isolated and solitary lives. That makes them a favorite target for predators.
Thanks to observant bank employees who suspected something was wrong and contacted police, suspects are now in custody. The victim lost some of his savings, but at least he wasn’t physically harmed. Like a weather warning, perhaps this individual’s misfortune will prompt others to exercise more precaution.
Be aware that during economic turmoil, frauds and scams tend to rise along with the jobless rate, and senior citizens are especially susceptible. The stalking jackals can assume many diabolical forms, from people posing as long-lost cousins to fly-by-night home repairmen or bogus e-mails requesting personal financial data. Keep tabs on elderly friends and relatives, just as you would during an ice storm. If you suspect an older person is being victimized, don’t hesitate to alert family members or the authorities.