Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Strange Encounter

After bringing the dogs inside this morning, my intuition was telling me to close the garage bay, but my logic was telling me not to, because the dogs need to take a lot of potty breaks right after eating.  I don't like wearing down the garage door electronics and mechanics by constantly opening and closing the garage bay.  So, I left it open.

Super early in the morning, well before most businesses are open, a car pulled into my driveway.  It was an unmarked car and the driver did not seem to be lost, but I had no idea who this person was.  I figured he'd see my sign on the door instructing people not to knock or ring the doorbell, and he would leave.  I left the room, because we have a glass front door, and nosy people will peer inside to see if anyone is home.  If they see me, they will wave at me to try to get me to come to the door.  The problem is that I don't want to go to the door, because 99% of the people who come to my door are salespeople, scam artists, and religious groups.  Also, I couldn't open the door if I wanted to, because the dogs will attack anyone on the porch.  My dogs tend to bark and jump first, ask questions later.  One time I had an elderly friend come to visit, and when I opened the door for her, my dogs nearly knocked her down, so now I have lock them up before letting people into the house or opening the door to talk to them.

Anyway, this guy rang the doorbell.  The dogs heard it and charged the door barking at him through the glass.  I figured he'd go away, but he didn't.  Each time I looked out the window, that car was still in my driveway.  I began getting nervous, because the man was behaving in an odd manner, making several trips between his car and my front door.  I couldn't see anything but a silhouette through the black curtains.

His behavior was so strange that my gut was telling me there was some kind of emergency.  In the past, if someone unexpectedly knocked on my door and wouldn't leave, it was usually a neighbor or passer by trying to tell me that one of my horses was in trouble.  So, I ran to the window to check on my horses, and they were fine.  The house wasn't on fire either, so I had no idea why this man would not leave.

We had noticed that a strange pick up truck has been visiting our dead end road multiple times a day and cruising very slowly up and down the street.  We figured it was someone interested in buying the house next door, and they just wanted to make sure that the neighborhood was up to their standards.  But in the back of my mind, I also knew there was a possibility that it was burglars casing the neighborhood.  The car in my driveway this morning was different from that truck, but that really didn't mean anything.  If there's a burglary ring, the people who case the neighborhood could be different from the people who actually do that burglarizing, or they might just drive a different vehicle for each phase of the job.  This worried me, because the last time that we had a package delivered, the driver didn't want to carry the package all the way to our front door because it was heavy and he said that the place looked deserted.  Our place does always look like no one is home because we keep our cars in the garage and the weeds grow faster than we can pluck them.  So, I suspect that would make our house a target for burglars.  I hoped the sign on the door about the dogs and our alarm system would scare off anyone with bad intentions.

Anyway, I lost track of where this man had gone, and his car was still in my driveway after about 10 minutes.  Then I remembered that I didn't close the garage door, so someone could be in the garage right now stealing tools and bicycles.  I listened at the garage door, but didn't hear anything.  I decided to just go out that way to look for this person to see what he was up to, while the dogs were still busy barking at the front door.

When I opened the interior garage door, a piece of paper slipped out of the frame and landed at my feet.  I was like, "What the hell?  Who would leave a written document on someone's interior garage door instead of the front door?"

Right then I heard a male voice in my garage say, "Hello?"

I looked around the corner and here was this strange man standing in my garage.  Normally, I'd run back inside, lock the door, and call the police, but this guy looked to be close to 90 years old.  Our community has a lot of retired senior citizens, and we often have silver alerts, meaning that someone with Alzheimer's Disease is missing.  I approached him and said in a concerned tone, "What is going on?"

He yelled at me, "This is important!  See that in your hand?  That is a scam!"

He sounded really angry.  I looked down at the piece of paper, but couldn't read it because I didn't have my reading glasses on.  Before I could say anything, he ripped it out of my hand and said, "You don't need that!  Give it back to me!"

I was completely confused why this man was in my garage and why he was so angry.  He asked if I was someone by a different name, and before I could answer, he clarified to me that he was looking for the people who previously lived in my house.  I recognized one of the names as the previous owner.  I informed him that they moved out several years ago.

He kept rambling on about this piece of paper, and he wasn't making much sense.  All I could gather was that he received an email from the previous owner of my house asking for money, and he didn't want to wire any money to Nigeria until he tracked someone down who knew her to see if this was legitimate.  He said that he had worked with her in real estate 20-some years ago, and he thought that someone figured that out and had taken over her email address and trying to scam money out of everyone on her contact list.

I said firmly, "Do NOT send anyone any money."

He said, "Oh no, I won't."

I was wondering why he wasn't asking himself why this woman would contact a coworker from over 20 years ago to send money to get her out of bind in a foreign country.  But when we get old, our minds just don't work as well as they used to.

There has been a real estate scam in the news in which people take over real estate agents' email addresses and pose as the agent to close real estate deals with their clients, and then they make off with the closing costs.  I tried telling this man about that scam, but he kept cutting me off and yelling half sentences that just repeated what he said to me before.  I could tell that he was just too emotional to listen, so after being cut off several times, I gave up.  I had a feeling he would immediately forget what I told him anyway.

He wanted to know if I had the previous owner's contact info, and I know we had it many years ago, but I wouldn't know where to find it.  Also, this lady has changed jobs and moved several times, so if I looked it up on the Internet, I couldn't guarantee that it would be current.  Then I remembered a location where I saw one of her FOR SALE signs on a lot.  I told him that he could find out which real estate company she works for now if he could go look at that sign.  I gave him directions to the sign and he sounded like he was familiar with the location.

Then he repeated back to my the directions, and they were so far off base, I could tell that he hadn't heard anything I said.  I repeated the directions two more times, and he kept cutting me off to ask questions.  If he would have just shut up and listened, things would have been so much simpler.  When he finally repeated the directions back to me in a way that sounded like he'd get close enough to where the sign was, I affirmed his understanding.  In retrospect, I probably should have just driven out there with him following me, because I'm sure he forgot the directions as soon as he drove off, but there are other ways he can track down this lady.  I'm not his only hope.

It turned out that he couldn't read the sign on my door that said not to ring the doorbell or knock, but after ringing the doorbell, he went back to his car to get reading glasses so that he could read it.  The piece of paper he gave me was too sensitive to leave on my front door, which was why he came into my garage and left it on my interior garage door.  It contained the contents of the email with personal information.  So, even though he was scatterbrained, I think he was well enough functioning that he knew what he was doing.  From my perspective, I could not grasp why someone would behave the way he did until I heard his story.  From his perspective, this was an emergency, because he thought his old coworker was either in trouble or needed to know immediately that her email address had been hijacked.

Our state is riddled with scam artists who prey on anyone they can, but especially senior citizens who are not Internet savvy and who tend to still trust most people.  It really makes me sick that there are people who will make a job out of stealing retirement savings from the elderly, who spent their whole lives working for that money.  I wanted to urge the guy to contact the police, but he had made it clear that he didn't want any advice from me.  Every time I tried to speak, he cut me off and talked over me.  He was only interested in listening to himself speak and finding out how to get into touch with the previous owner of my house.  So, another day and another strange encounter.  It's getting to the point where nothing surprises me anymore.  But, just in case, I'll be keeping an eye out for any silver alerts in my area.

Has anyone seen the movie "Nebraska" starring Bruce Dern?  This reminded me of that.  Great movie!


Water Girl said...

It sounds like Arizona is just as riddled with scan artists as California. It's really unfortunate what the internet has done to people. It blows my mind that just because people think the have an anonymous cover that they can just do whatever they want to. It makes me sick.
I live a block away from a guy who is currently being convicted of something like 15 years worth of scams (no joke). He's gotten several million dollars by targeting the elderly in El Salvador. I went to school with his youngest daughter and was in a girl scout troop with her. He talked about going to El Salvador all the time and played it off as some sort of charity thing.
It's amazing what people will do just for money.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Water Girl - I found in the queue with your comment, a comment from someone I've never heard of claiming to be someone's grandmother. She said her granddaughter got into a horse wreck and her horse was killed, and she wanted me to donate money on GoFundMe. She didn't say anything about what the money was supposed to be used for, like hospital bills, but she acted like I should know her granddaughter personally. I thought it was funny that a con artist hit my blog on the same day that I wrote about scams. Obviously, she didn't read this post.

Linda said...

What a sad and unusual situation. Yes, I did see Nebraska and that's what I was thinking as I read your post.

TeresaA said...

oh dear. that poor man. I hope that he does not live alone. I would be a bit freaked out.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Ugh. I really wish he didn't ring my doorbell, because the dogs have been looking out the front door hallucinating that someone is walking up the walkway every time a bird flies past, and I can't get them to stop barking. This is why I hate it so much when random people come to my door and don't read my sign. It disrupts the peace around my household for days afterward. As long as we have no visitors, the dogs are very quiet. I'm seriously considering installing a wall and gate with a lock around my front and back doors to stop people from approaching the house. That's the way my neighbors' house is designed. Then all I've got to do is remember to keep the gates locked and the garage bays closed.

Brenda said...

What a crazy encounter! I feel bad for the man and, like Teresa, hope he doesn't live alone. My mom is 80 and while she is far from being feeble-minded, every time we hear a new scam on the news I remind her not to give in to the scammers. She lives with my brother and I and has no grandkids. She does have 2 nieces but they would go to their own parents if they got into trouble. She's told me about suspicious phone calls she's gotten but fortunately she knows enough to not give them personal information and she knows the IRS won't call. It's still scary sometimes, though.

Water Girl said...

I always wonder how smart these people are. Clearly smart enough to think to do something sneaky and at least slightly diabolical, but not smart enough to consider that it's, oh I don't know…STUPID.

Cheryl Ann said...

A couple of years ago, my aunt (in her 80's and STILL LUCID!) got a phone call from a scammer. THEY knew the name of her grandson (a very unusual name...) and told her he was in a car wreck, and needed money. She was all ready to go withdraw over $5,000 to send to them when our daughter stepped in (fortunately). Yes, these "people" are very clever. I shudder to think what my aunt would have done had our daughter not stopped by to visit her that afternoon!
Cheryl Ann

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Cheryl Ann - Yeah, the Internet makes it all to easy to get information about people. All you have to do is move your fingers. In the past, people had to physically go to some hall of written records and do tons of research to find out who was related to who. I recently set most of my business's Facebook settings to private because I realized that Facebook sets people up for all kinds of trouble.

In fact, I suspect I got that scam comment I mentioned above to Water Girl because I recently left a comment on someone else's blog about donating money to GoFundMe for MiKael. I call those people Cyber Stalkers, because they will latch onto one little piece of information you write about yourself and track you down to hit you up for money. What really creeped me out is that when I tried to track where that comment came from to get an IP Address, there was no trace. So, that person was a pro.

achieve1dream said...

For some reason there isn't a comment thing available on the previous post... that's the second one I've found today.

The way you were talking about horses vs. ATVs was making me want to trade in for one lol. They are definitely a lot less hassle and I actually do love riding four wheelers. I too would miss horses though. I hope the power guys get done and get out before the hot temps arrive so you can hopefully get in some good rides. Don't give up!

Now I'm going to read this post.

achieve1dream said...

Oh wow... that is so creepy. Everything in the post and in the comments... I wish people could just be honest and kind.. is that so much to ask??

I like the idea of putting a gate around your front door, but it would be expensive and a pain in the butt... :( Can you disconnect the doorbell? Of course knocking probably stirs them up just as bad. As much as I hate getting out to open and close our gate everyday I really do like that we never have anyone driving up or knocking on our doors...