Making investments through the mail made him feel good, useful, able to provide for his wife--even at 91 years old. But the only thing the $60,000 in checks produced was fear from his family that he had fallen victim to a financial scam targeting senior citizens.
D.C. police say they have received at least 15 calls in the last month about various scams carried out against senior citizens--a seasonal increase that shows how the perpetrators play on seniors' hopes they can help others or their need for money during the holidays.
"People should know that if it sounds too good to be true, then it is," said Detective Vincent Tucci of the financial crimes and fraud unit.
The latest millennial-related scam involves callers warning seniors about the Y2K computer problems.
The caller asks for the senior's PIN number to make sure his or her bank account is safe, said Louise C. Myers, executive director of Iona Senior Services in Northwest.
"Never give out your PIN number," Myers said. "I think these are high pressure phone calls that prey on confusion over the loss of money."
In another scam, someone, usually a woman, shows the potential victim a purse full of money and asks him to open a bank account for her.
In return, the person says she will split the money. Another person appears and asks the potential victim to invest that person's money as well.
If the potential victim opens an account or makes an "investment," he will never sees the money Tucci said.
So far, police said, the scam has worked throughout the District with about $35,000 in reported losses.
In another scheme, a senior citizen will get a call saying he or she has won the Canadian lottery. To collect the prize money, however, the "winner" has to fork over about $10,000 for taxes.
In yet another ruse, a person claiming to be a police officer will show up at a potential victim's house identifying himself or herself as an officer and asking for money, Tucci said.
"People need to ask them for their badge and phone number and call to make sure they are police," Tucci said. "No respecting, true police officer will have a problem with this."
The con artists rely on the victims' feelings of loneliness and sadness that they can no longer earn money, officials said.
"A 91-year-old man does not get many telephone calls," said Grace Lebow, of Aging Network Services, a national service for families of senior citizens.
"This man feels like he can't earn money, but he wants to please his family and wife with getting them things."
Tucci urged family members and victims to report all scams so it won't happen to others.
The police currently are looking for three suspects in the scam involving the 91-year-old man. Anyone with information should call Crime Solvers at 800-673-2777.
Information leading to an arrest and indictment could bring a $1,000 reward.