Scams, cons and fraud.

I like to think while I may be older, I’m not naive. Unfortunately, however, even the best of us can all fall for a well-conceived scam. As technology develops and we age, a slippery slope can arise, and extreme caution is necessary. The F.B.I. says senior fraud accounts for some $3 billion in losses annually, and it’s growing. For example, in 2020, the F.B.I. reports they saw a 69% increase in fraud complaints over the previous year.

The pandemic and isolation compounded these crimes, according to law enforcement. In just the past few months, I have received calls from a robotic voice claiming to be from Social Security, another claiming to be from Amazon saying a problem with my credit card for the new iPhone I ordered. But, of course, these calls were scams. Then there are the constant sales phishing calls about my car’s expiring warranty.

My favorite experience with a con artist was when I received the “Grandparents” scam call. The voice on the other end said, “Hello grandpa, it’s me and I’m in trouble. I’ve been arrested and I need bail money.” Thankfully, I had heard of this before, and I knew where my grandkids were, so I told the caller, “Too bad, I never really liked you anyway,” the caller quickly hung up.

How do these cons get your information? They gather much of your personal information from your social media. Law enforcement uses social media as well to track criminal activity and identities. One federal investigator told me we need to keep making people aware of how criminals get your information. Remember, Social Security, the I.R.S., and government agencies will not call you demanding money or gift cards.

 The Overland Park Police Department says the “grandparents phone scam” is the one they see more often. Another example is a scammer who sent someone to the victim’s house in a recent local case. The victim took cash out to the street and gave it to a courier who left with the funds. Other instances involved victims instructed to purchase gift cards or go to an A.T.M. and withdraw some money.

In 2020 the F.B.I. reports 3,457 Kansans were victims of various scams amounting to about $19 million in losses. The F.B.I. says seniors are targets because we tend to be trusting and polite. However, many senior victims never report these crimes as they feel embarrassed or concerned that family members may think they can no longer care for themselves. Authorities also say Seniors are more often a target because they are available, have savings and other assets.

A spokeswoman for the Kansas City F.B.I. field office says Romance and Confidence screams are what they see the most. A Romance scam is where perpetrators gain the trust of their victims, eventually convincing them to send them money. A confidence scam is where the criminal convinces the victim they are acting in their best interest. The “grandparents call” is an example. If you get a call like this, police say hang up and call the agency reportedly holding your loved one to verify the claim.

If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact your local F.B.I. field office or submit a tip online. You can also file a complaint with the F.B.I.’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

….that’s 30…stay safe.

Highway Trash, Who is Responsible?

In celebration of last week’s Earth Day, I want to showcase the litter on our highways. Over the previous five years, I have been appalled by the amount of trash on the highways in the Kansas City Metro area. I have complained to county commissioners, state highway officials, and city officials, claiming it is not their responsibility.

Some say most of the litter comes from trash trucks on their way to the landfill. Until recently, I believed that could contribute to the problem, but was not the sole reason. However, I happened to follow a large Waste Management truck for a few miles, during which time a large amount of trash flew out of the truck onto the highway. From the looks of our highways, how can this be acceptable?

That experience was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I knew I had to do more to address the problem. So I called the City Managers’ office was told, “we hear about this all the time, and there is nothing we can do. You need to contact Waste Management”. The only problem is Waste Management’s phone number is to a call center that keeps you on hold for a long time, and if you don’t have an account, they don’t know to who you should be connected.

During my wait to speak to a manager, the recording touts, “We don’t think green…we act green”. I want senior management to drive around the area and then tell me they are acting green.

Trash-strewn roads are not just unsightly; the debris collects in drain systems and crate hazards. So, happy earth day, please don’t litter.

Gun Violence, a never ending story.

Ten more innocents are dead this week in what was the seventh mass shooting this year. Police say they believe the suspect used an AR-15 style pistol he purchased just six days before the shootings.

Again we are asking why? Why does the greatest nation on earth have such a poor record of making progress in this pandemic of gun violence? The politicians are quick to send their prayers and condolences. What if they would act with the same resolve to reach common-sense laws to protect us from more gun violence. I believe this is not a partisan issue. It is an American disgrace, and we all are guilty of allowing this to continue.

AR-556

Living in Kansas, I can predict the lack of support for stricter background checks or other legislation to curb gun violence. I’m not suggesting we take any guns away, but I believe we can make significant progress to end this mass slaughter. We need to make our voices heard.

If our elected would attack this issue with the same tenacity as they do abortion, which I also despise, imagine what could happen. I don’t understand how one life issue is more important than another. I believe the Right to Life starts at conception and ends with natural death.

Where are the ‘Captains of Industry”? In the long run, violence is impacting their bottom line. The cost of health care, security, and loss of productivity are well known. Could the increasing gun violence in the Kansas City metro be a factor in the number of significant employers leaving the area? These businesses have a collective voice that politicians will not ignore, but yet there is silence.

Now we have another growing concern; domestic terrorism. Perhaps, these groups of so-called patriots have always been around, but now they have been invited to commit seditious acts. I’m concerned these groups are as dangerous as the lone-wolf mass terrorists.

Why does anyone need an AR-15 or other automatic weapon? I’ve never heard of a deer taken with something designed for our military. I do support hunters and other responsible gun owners. They do understand the responsibility of owning and using firearms, unlike the teenager who shows up at a protest claiming to “protect” others’ rights and ends up killing someone?.

Yes, these are complicated issues, but we should not lose focus on this scourge of our American way of life.

…that’s 30. Come on America, we can do better.

Empty Words

Empty language is what I am calling the plethora of statements, sayings, and other jargon that continue to dominate political speak.

The Kansas Attorney General, now a gubernatorial candidate, was quoted as saying he offers “common sense and conservative leadership.” What does that mean? In my view, it is just empty language. Words he thinks will resonate with the people of Kansas. He then goes on to claim, “The intolerant left is trying to shame and silence conservative voices.”

Intolerance is a lack of respect for practices or beliefs other than one’s own.

Hummm…seems to me there is more than enough “intolerance” on both sides of the political spectrum. One of the attorney general’s primary opponents was quick to jump in by asking, “Who is the most conservative.” How soon might they say “My Dad is tougher than your Dad” I’m not sure how much longer I can “tolerate” these empty statements. I’ll listen to and consider the candidate of either party who can communicate his or her position without blame, falsehoods or innuendo.

So, it begins a political battle laced with empty language. If both parties’ leadership were able to tone down the rhetoric and encourage their candidates to speak the plain truth, maybe we could get to the core of some of the problems that face our state.

…that’s 30

We May Never Know

We will never know what the Impeachment trial vote would have been if it was a secret ballot. At the trial’s conclusion, some speculated that quite a few senators would have changed if their vote had been secret ballot. But that’s not how our country works.
It is sad to think that many have put party politics first. Some had made up their minds even before the trial started, which, in my humble opinion, is shameful.

Trump Rally

I believe any reasonable person who followed events leading up to the Inauguration, the January 6th riot, and the trial would undoubtedly believe the former President orchestrated the attack on our Capitol.

While I am not surprised with the outcome, I am concerned about the impact on our culture. Does this send a message that white privilege is permissible? The march and attack were well planned. While a few people of color were seen, the racist overtones of the attack were deafening. We must work on ending racism in our country.

On this day after the trial, I have the feeling that “other shoe is yet to drop.” I’d like to know what prosecutors across the county are doing. How much was the Trump campaign involved in the planning and logistics of the attack? Who was giving the former President tips and advice? I find it hard to believe he was the lone and yet un-indicted conspirator.

I trust the Fourth Estate will not let this all fade away, and in the words of Paul Harvey, we will learn “the rest of the story.”

…that’s 30. Be Kind. Be Civil. Be Honest.

Second Shot in the Arm!

After reading how others are anxiously trying to get their first vaccine dose, I write this with some trepidation. I got my second vaccine shot on February 1. How did I do that? The credit goes to the people of Erickson Living and their corporate response to the pandemic.

Erickson Living is a national company with 20 retirement communities across the country with 15,000 employees serving more than 27,000 residents. When the pandemic hit, protocols to protect employees and residents initiated. For most of 2020, employees delivered meals and necessities to residents. Masking and social distancing were part of everyone’s day.

In December, we moved into one of those communities, Tallgrass Creek in Overland Park, Kansas. Residents and employees have been living with stringent guidelines for nearly a year now.

Erickson and CVS teamed up to plan inoculations once the vaccine was available. We received our first shot on January 11. It was an all hands on deck socially-distanced process with a fifteen-minute waiting period once the vaccine was in the arm, then we were given cards indicating our booster shot would be on February 1. Yet, I remained anxious as news reports on problems getting the vaccine into the arms of people dominated the headlines.

We have heard of people having a day or two of discomfort following their second shot, but so far, we have only noticed some soreness in the arm. Staff from Tallgrass Creek and CVS continue to innoculate residents and employees methodically. After each shot, you hear cheers and noisemakers to celebrate.

Perhaps lessons learned by Erickson Living would make a good case study for the next pandemic.

…that’s 30 for today.

Domestic threats of more violence

What does it say about our country when the Department of Homeland Security issues an Advisory Bulletin regarding a “hightened threat environment across the United States”? According to DHS, these “violent extremeists” could well be a neighbor, someone who believes the election was stolen. One of the concerns is that there could be mobilization or plans to incite or commit violence, much like what we saw on January 6th. A day we will all remember.

I believe that many of these radical thinkers continue to feed off the false narratives of politicians who are continuing to stir up the former Presidents’ base. I see them as opportunists, not the public servants they were elected to be.

What can you and I do about this? Well, if we can help tone down the rhetoric, listen to what others have to say, and try to understand their position. As an individual, I will not change the mind of someone who believes in these radical accusations. However, demonstrating civility towards others can be contagious. Perhaps more contagious than Covid-19. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Let’s hope this threat of violence is a wake-up call for “We the people.”

…that’s30. What are your thoughts?

Is it over yet?

J

I watched the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris. I also watched the departure of Former President Trump and his family.

I’m feeling a sense of relief in that everything will soon return to some level of normalcy. I feel safe that this new administration is in the hands of experienced leaders and people who will put the country first.

I may not agree with everything this new administration will do, but I feel it will be thought out and not a knee jerk reaction to social media. I’m also relieved to see a very diverse group of people appointed to key administration positions. Gone are the family influencers, the yes-men, and those with racist tendencies and special interests.

But I’m afraid it’s not over yet. As I write, news that the Articles of Impeachment will be sent to the Senate next week for a trial. To say we live in tumultuous times is a vast understatement.

Will the Senate convict? Should he be held accountable? If they don’t convict, what message does that send to those who stormed our Capital?


Healing the deep divisions in our Republic will take understanding, patience, truth, and love of the neighbor.

For now I plan to reread the elegant words of Amanda Gorman.

“The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it

If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

…that’s 30 for this week.

We Watched In Horror and now Wait in Terror

This past Wednesday, we watched in horror as an army of thugs overran our nation’s Capital. Encouraged by Donald Trump, the mob marched to invade our cathedral of government, which was ratifying the Electoral College vote.
Four days later, new questions have surfaced about why there was not sufficient security to prevent this unprecedented attack. Who knew what? Who were the people in this angry mob? Yes, some genuinely believe what Trump has been telling them for the last four years, that the Democrats stole the election despite the lack of evidence. Today some speculate that there were some law enforcement officers as part of the riotous crowd. Investigations are beginning.

What are we learning about our way of life? Our government and the way we do business? Are we witnessing Sedition?

Where are the Statesmen and Women who will represent the people without obstruction, self-serving headline-grabbing tactics? The Hawley’s, Cruz’s, and Marshalls are complicit and need to resign or step back and serve their constituents with honor rather than false narratives. They only care about themselves and will grasp any straw they think will promote their political future.

I pray that our nation will survive the next ten days without further disruption. I pray for a safe and peaceful Inauguration of the new administration.

…that’s 30. May God Bless our nation.

A country divided?

Division

I have been trying to understand the events of last week and find my words to express the hurt, concern and utter discust I feel. Until I can figure out my own feelings, I offer the wisdom of Pat Bell. (Full disclosure, he’s my brother-in-law and someone I hold in great esteem.)

IN My Opinion

Are Americans actually so stupid and naïve? Can’t we see why we’re so divided and angry in this country? And how this division is destroying us?

“Divide and conquer” may be the most effective military strategy. And it works in defeating cultures and societies as well.

Think about it. Those who encourage division do so with rhetoric that places blame on others for all problems. They demonize all who have differing opinions in order to achieve their own objectives. They are politicians trying to remain in power. They are media (on both sides) whose goal of larger audiences (and advertising revenue) is furthered by more and more and vitriolic and divisive language. (True journalism may indeed be dead.) And there are the true enemies of our country (both domestic and foreign) who would be delighted at our collapse.

All of these people/entities encourage and plant the seeds of division, distrust, exclusion, and anger. But in the end, it’s another group that ensures the growth of these things. We can see them every morning when we look in the mirror.

We, as Americans, have taken the bait of division….and run with it. We have embraced the idea of contempt and confrontation and blame. And we are as guilty as any of spreading division with disrespectful conversation and social media posts.

We have done this to ourselves.

Can we not show even the slightest acknowledgement of the merit of a different opinion by listening? Can we not at least try to understand that opinion without an emotional outburst? Can we not try to express our own views without blame and offensive words?

Can we defeat the division that could destroy us? Entirely? No. We will always be somewhat divided by political beliefs, religious beliefs, ethnic or racial or a host of other differences. But we have, mostly, been able to appreciate (and even celebrate some differences on occasion) respectively for the greater benefit of all.  We’re far from being the perfect nation. We have certainly shown our weaknesses and sins in the past. And yet, on whole, we Americans strive to be a better society.

Our elected leaders pledge to defend us….from all threats. Division is a serious threat. They must unite us to begin the process of defeating division. But it’s not just the responsibility of politicians. It’s our job too. We have to be smarter…to survive.



Let’s think about what we can do as individuals…that’s 30