This column, although it tells about my wife’s horrifying experience, is not just about her. It is a column designed to alert the unwary of the costly price of being duped.
Here’s what happened to her:
“I recently received a phone call from a Florida number (305-600-3299),” she said. “The male voice called me grandma and I responded, ‘Doug’? ‘Yes,’ he replied.
“He said he was in Miami for a friend’s funeral and had been jailed for a traffic accident, running a red light and knocking over a pregnant woman. Then a purported lawyer, ‘David Ross,’ called saying my grandson needed $950 bail money plus a $50 charge.
“He told me to go to the nearest Western Union and mail the money to Martha Blakney, a supposed bondswoman from New Jersey. Terribly concerned and upset, I went to my bank and withdrew $1,000.
“The Western Union clerk suspected a scam but I did not believe her. However, one other person in the office was familiar with arrests. He convinced me it was a fraud because of incorrect bail procedure.
“I phoned my grandson and was relieved to learn he was safe–400 miles from Miami. I was also happy to save $1,000 that my stupidity could have cost me.”
“I later Googled the telephone number (a land line) and a street photo showed a house with two late-model vehicles in the driveway.”
A friend sent my wife an email saying she knows people “who fall for this one.” One of her friends recently was scammed by an email from a friend “stranded overseas.” My wife’s friend admitted that even her intelligent husband was victimized by a similar scheme.
“They are ingenious and make me so mad,” my wife’s friend lamented. “There are places you can report them, but it is very hard to catch them.”
So my wife did not bother reporting her case.
This scam is so often successful because family members have a powerful urge to help another family member in trouble.
A sports columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle used a stogy academic word, iteration, in the first paragraph of her column. I read no farther.
I sent her an email saying it is not a word used by sports writers with grace, simplicity and class. Instead of emailing back her disagreement, she emailed this insulting reply: “What kind of third-rate college did you go to?”
The other day in an Associated Press soccer story I read that a team “replicated” an earlier victory. Replicated means the same as iteration. Repeat or repeating in both instances would be far better words to use.
Another example of lack of class: a Reno editor, with whom I frequently exchanged emails about possible cover stories, sent his rejection of my recent article on the late Justice Scalia via an email from his sub-editor.
I wrote to the sports editor of the Reno Gazette-Journal suggesting that I was probably the only one of his readers who noticed or cared that the daily listing of sports events on TV was eliminated. I explained that I had cut out the listings for decades.
He wrote back that I wasn’t the only one. Fifty other people sent him emails missing the listings. Under such pressure, the publisher of the paper restored the item. Sometimes publishers do listen to complaints of readers.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)