IT was supposed to be an act of generosity, but it turned out to be what has been described as a calculated scam.
For an 87-year-old Invercargill man, who the Southland Express has agreed not to name, it started with a visit to his favourite fast-food outlet, KFC.
A woman approached the elderly gentleman claiming to know him, despite the man not recognising her and believing they had never met before.
What happened next is a bit blurry.
The man is unsure if he told the woman his name or she followed him home, but somehow she tracked down where he lived.
Three days after the encounter at KFC, the woman arrived at his doorstep with her two young daughters.
She struck up a conversation before indicating she didn’t have a washing machine and didn’t have the money to purchase one.
“I wanted to help. I wanted to make sure the kids’ clothes were going to be washed,” the man said.
He handed over $200 and the woman and her daughters left.
A few days later she was back. This time she said she was in need of $400 for a fridge.
The man again handed over what money he had at his home at the time.
The woman even offered to drive him to an ATM when he indicated he did not have any more cash at his home.
She returned again a few days later. This time she wanted $40 to take her kids to the circus. The man obliged.
Over a period of a few weeks the man coughed up an estimated $500 to help what he believed was a family in need.
One day when the woman showed interest in buying the man’s brother’s car, which was situated at his house, he started to ponder if she was genuine or not.
“I said, ‘how can you buy this car when you haven’t got any money’.”
The man then confided in people he trusted, and in turn the police and Age Concern became involved, believing it was all a well-calculated scam.
The woman was issued with a trespass notice and she had not returned since.
However, police believed she had simply moved on to other targets.
Senior Constable Michael Hore was aware of two other elderly people who this particular woman had befriended and asked for money.
Mr Hore said because no criminal complaint had been laid, police were not in a position to press any charges.
Instead, the police and Age Concern want to raise awareness around the situation to ensure elderly people are vigilant in regard to who they give their money to.
They also want to make people aware that there are well-trained people they can talk to if they felt they had been taken advantage of.
Today, June 15, is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Age Concern social worker Janine King said individuals preying on trusting elderly people for financial reward was more common than the general public probably realised.
She expected there were many more cases that had gone unnoticed given people tended to feel foolish and embarrassed to inform someone when they realised they had been “hoodwinked”.