When a call comes in to our house phone (rather than one of our cell phones), odds are it is a junk call or a scam.
When my caller-ID shows a number I do not recognize, I usually say nothing for a couple of seconds to see if there is a real caller, or if it is just a recorded message.
I followed this protocol a few days ago, pushing the answer button on our cordless phone but saying nothing.
After a couple of seconds delay, the caller gave me a cheerful “Hello.”
“Hello,” I responded.
“Hi, Grampa!” came the response, a voice that I would describe as a young adult trying to sound like a teenager.
I have six grandchildren, all of whom mean more to me than life itself. None of them addresses me as Grampa.
“Who is this?” I asked.
“It’s your grandson, Grampa,” the caller replied.
“What is your name?”
“It’s me, Napoleon.” Actually, he didn’t say Napoleon. He used a far more common male name. It was nowhere close to the name of any of my grandsons.
I hung up.
I’m pretty sure this was the same “grandson” who called me several weeks ago — these guys don’t give up easily.
A half-century as a police reporter helped me develop a healthy ability to recognize most scams.
One of the most reprehensible scams is one in which a caller represents himself or herself as a grandchild in a bind who needs a substantial sum of cash wired to him immediately, in order to get out of a jam with the constabulary.
As a newly-minted 78-year-old, I am still sufficiently in possession of of my faculties to recognize this as a scam.
I also refused to respond last year to an email represented as being from a friend traveling in Europe, who said he had been robbed and needed me to wire him money to book a flight home. It was another familiar scam.
So why do I bother to write about these scams? Because some chronologically-gifted citizens with hearts of gold respond to them often enough to keep the scammers busy and profitable. And their money is seldom recovered.
So what to do?
I encourage my fellow senior citizens to beware of these scams, and to establish a relationship with an adult son or daughter or other younger adult friend — pastor, banker, lawyer, neighbor — whom you can call for guidance if you receive such an appeal.
Or call 9-1-1.
And if you are a younger adult with a parent or other older friend whom you believe could fall victim to this kind of scam, go to them and urge them to contact you if they receive such a call.
Nobody appointed me to be spokesman for my generation, but if you see yourself on either side of the generational divide I have alluded to, take action.
If your initiative is unappreciated, blame it on me.
Tell ’em a suspicious old Grampa put you up to it.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. The older he gets, the more offers of help he receives and the fewer he declines. It is one of the limited number of advantages to aging.)