Opinion / Guest Commentary / Our Readers Write:
Editor's Note: While La Jolla Light knows the name and address of this writer, we've agreed to withhold the information to protect her safety and privacy. She wishes her story told as a caution to others, particularly other senior citizens and wrote the following:
A week ago, I was scammed for $3,000. I've spent this week trying to work out how it was possible to happen to me. I describe myself as being assertive and confident, and I am not a follower. I am a busy person and work part-time as a docent for the San Diego Museum of Art. I have definite views and I'm a happy grandmother, age 76.
It all started as I was getting out of my car in La Jolla and I answered a phone call from a 760 area code. The male caller knew my name and asked me if I'd been to Texas because an abandoned car registered in my name was found on the side of the highway with blood splatters and thousands of pounds of drugs inside.
I had been in Texas four months earlier to visit my grandson, who is a student at the University of Texas. The caller said I was in trouble and going to be arrested for drug-trafficking and money-laundering. He said there were two ways to deal with it — privately with his help, or, if I didn't work with him it would be a public news splashed over all the newspapers, etc.
I remember saying, "Is this a fraud?" I also believe now that I had no chance, I was caught.
He told me to cancel by phone call, the lunch appointment I told him I was going to in 15 minutes by saying: "I can't tell you why I'm canceling lunch, but I will call you later," and then to hang up and not to talk to anyone after that — and to stay on the phone at all times with him.
This complete control and power over me lasted 2 1/2 hours. At the time, I didn't question a thing. He told me what to do and I did it!
He asked me for my Social Security number. I gave him the last four digits, but he said the full one (and I gave it … yes I gave it!) He asked if I had a bank account and how much was in it.
He asked me if I knew where Nordstrom or Sephora was, and told me to drive to UTC (20 minutes away) and to keep the phone on at all times. He kept checking in on me … park the car … keep the phone on in my pocket … talk to no-one … take my debit card to a machine where I could buy gift cards and buy six cards worth $500 each …. go down to the garage and scratch the cards and read him the number on the card and the uncovered codes … go to an ATM, put my debit card in. Then he explained how I could find out how much I had in my savings.
He asked if I had the bank's mobile app on my phone so I could transfer the money. (I didn't, luckily.) He then told me to go back to my car and drive to the bank (another 20 minutes), to keep the phone on in my pocket and ask the teller to withdraw $10,000 in cash.
I was to say nothing while in the bank, but to go outside the bank to inform him of what was happening.
This is when I got lucky and some power back, I think … the bank became my sanctuary!
The young lady behind the counter looked startled and went back to call the manager. I saw him come forward, and I motioned that I was not allowed to talk and I began writing on the deposit slips on the counter, scribbling madly, explaining what I was doing and why I was not talking, etc.
I got a note back from the bank manager that read "keep him talking, the police are coming."
That seemed to help break the control chain a bit, when I felt I could talk on the phone inside the bank, not as the caller had insisted I talk only outside the bank.
From then on, I spoke to him from inside the bank telling the man on the phone that it was a very unusual inquiry and the bank was finding it difficult to come up with the cash. I also said this was all becoming too much for me and I had nothing to hide, so let the Texas police arrest me.
He then told me to ask the bank to just transfer the money to my current account instead.
Which I did ask, and the bank didn't do, of course, but the man heard me say it.
When I saw three, wonderful, uniformed police officers arrive into the bank, I was thrilled.
One took the phone from me and I became myself from then on. The whole thing lasted for more than 2 hours, and now I have the police case number as they investigate.
Can a person be hypnotized without knowing it? I read that covert hypnosis (or conversational hypnosis) is one of the most common methods of taking control over another person's mind. But while you hypnotize someone, you're not taking control over them, but you control their thoughts. You make them believe something that you tell them to be their own thought.
My belief now is that the only way I could have averted this scam, is by not having picked up the anonymous call. I share this story so that others may be aware of the dangers in the world today.
What's on YOUR mind?
Letters published in La Jolla Light express views from readers in regard to community issues. To share your thoughts in this public forum, e-mail them with your name and city of residence to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to La Jolla Light Editor, 565 Pearl St., Suite 300, La Jolla, CA 92037. Letters reflect the writers' opinions and not necessarily those of the newspaper staff or publisher.