Blog Post #3: Is It Ever Okay To Be Scammed?

I believe those who scam vulnerable people are disgusting. 

HOWEVER … consider this story about our special needs adult son.

THE BACKGROUND: Our son has craved a sweetheart for the past 5 or 6 years. It was one of his main goals. He had not been able to find one during all that time, but still, every time we talked … “When, Mom, when will I get a sweetheart?”.  He had a list of specific requirements for his sweetheart — she must be around his age, she must be a sign language person, she must have a driver’s license, and she must be African American.  

During that 5 years of his searching for a sweetheart, his Aunt, I and his support workers, had gone with him to “Deaf Coffee Social”, “ASL Club” and “Deaf Church” and other places where it was hopeful he could meet lots of people to make friends.  It is very hard for him to make lasting friends, due to his autism.  He does have some Deaf friends from his residential School For The Deaf and Blind, but hasn’t really made any lasting friends since he graduated.

Which brings us to January this year. He was more desperate than ever to find a sweetheart.

Then we got the FaceTime call — he was THRILLED!  Mom! Mom! Dad! Dad!  I found a girlfriend! We love each other forever!  She meets all my requirements!

He found her online. I was thrilled for him too.

UNTIL — suddenly, every 2 weeks when he got paid, he was using most, or all of his paycheck that was left over after paying rent, utility and internet, to buy game cards and give to her.  I finally convinced him to save back enough for food after he ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches straight for 2 weeks.

We were horrified. His thrilling girlfriend now appeared to be nothing more than a scam.

His Support Workers, his Aunt, and his Dad and I all tried explaining to him he is getting scammed – she loves his game cards not him. He refuses to believe it. 

BUT — he was, and still is, happier than he’s been in the past 5 or 6 years. He just loves having a sweetheart. He loves “taking care of” his sweetheart, and being a working man who can buy her gifts — game cards. 

His support workers suggested we report our fears to the local police department. They had worked with a detective there on previous scam attempts made against other of their disabled clients. Our son resisted the possibility his new girlfriend was a fraud, but I finally convinced him to go with me to the Police Detective, and show him his phone with the text messages and game card submissions. The Detective researched his messages, what his girlfriend said was her name and birthdate, and the phone # she was using. Unfortunately, even though he found – there is no such person by that name, and that the phone number used is generated randomly by some computer somewhere. There is no way to confirm from where or whom the messages are being sent or received.

SUMMARY: The Detective agreed with me he was being scammed, but could not help me.

Our son was delighted there was no definite proof his girlfriend was fake —“See Mom, she really is my sweetheart.”

You might be asking yourself: Why did I not immediately step in and cut him off from this “girlfriend”? Whether he understands or not, he is being taken advantage of and must be protected.

To put it simply: COVID19.  While all of this was happening, our son began showing alarming symptoms. I actually thought he had COVID19, and was very afraid there was a very real possibility he could die. I called his doctor’s office and they had me bring him in to the COVID19 separate tent clinic, set up outside with plenty of space around it. The staff in the tent all wore head to toe protective coverings. The doctor said he probably had an intestinal kind of virus, but tested him to be sure. I was still somewhat in shock.

It was in the midst of my panic that I suddenly realized this scammer had made him happier than he had been in 5 years.  

If he died, I would have been very grateful at least he had that happiness in the last 2 months of his life. So was the scammer actually helping him???

This jarred my world.  I started thinking of all the foolish ways people can spend their hard earned money, to bring them happiness.  Was letting himself be scammed any worse than an alcoholic spending all their paycheck on alcohol?  Or the gambler on gambling? The celebrity on endless partying?

Happily, the doctor was right — my son was very sick, but it was due to an intestinal virus, not COVID19. I was so relieved.

TODAY — The scamming is still going on. He is still spending almost all of the discretionary part of his paychecks on her.  While his happiness is important, there must still be a limit to how long someone can continue to take advantage of him. His Dad and I are determined to stop, or at least limit the scamming.  It is our responsibility — we are his legal guardians. I’ll talk in future blog posts about some strategies and schemes we’ve come up with to help him see the truth and stop letting himself be scammed. It’s important that even though we can assist, as with all children he must eventually learn to protect himself as much as possible. I believe he is smart enough to gain that knowledge. 

Here are the links to my signing and cueing YouTube “Word Of The Day” channels. I post a new word every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Check it out and I would love to know what you think of them!

YouTube ASL Word Of The Day with PSE Sentence Examples:

YouTube Cued Speech Word Of The Day:

Also, Check out my Adventure Games in the App Stores:

Published by Donna Gateley

Developer of SignCueQuest and CueQuest

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