Tales from the Hood

IMG_0140A sure sign of the season this, closing the blinds in the home office. Summer sunlight makes it painful to see the monitor, never mind the heat. I thought I’d be able to leave the shutters open until noon, the sun being on the other side of the house until then, but no … this time of year the glare’s so intense it brings tears to my eyes, and I have to go dark by nine. I don’t like working in the gloom, but at least I can now see the words I’m typing on the screen. This post first, and later a long-form letter to a friend.

Donna’s at her sewing retreat. Since selling the motorcycle my days of going riding with friends are over, and I really don’t have any other excuses to get out of the house. Good thing I like to read and write, activities that pair well with a hermit lifestyle.

Oh, you noticed the iMac wallpaper? C’mon, you can’t pretend you’re surprised. If you guessed I also have F-15 Eagle wallpaper, congratulations.

Our daughter had a near-death encounter with a scammer. I’ve mentioned it here once or twice. Now that the danger’s passed I think I can share some details.

Polly, 49, has been mostly unemployed the last few years. She either quits jobs after a week or two, or gets fired. She lives at home with mom and dad. That’s the background.

She bit on a work-from-home job recruitment ad. The job was to be data entry: $15 an hour during a two-week remote training period, then $30 an hour once the actual work started. The company, based overseas, would set her up with home office equipment. Donna and I recognized a scam right off the bat. Polly’s work record is worse than spotty, and apart from a couple of community college certifications she doesn’t have a degree. Thirty bucks an hour for remote work? But the scammer had set up a website duplicating that of an actual company, and was spoofing phone numbers and email addresses associated with the actual company. Polly was convinced everything was legit and wasn’t listening to our warnings. At that point we were like, well, let her learn from the experience, right?

But then the scammer told her she’d completed the training after only a week, and emailed her a check for more than $5,000. She took it to the nearest B of A and opened a checking account. The way these scams work, I learned after reading about them on Reddit, is that the check will initially clear and the money will show up in the account statement … but five or six days down the line the bank will discover it’s fraudulent. In the meantime, though, the scammer pressures the scamee to order office equipment (computer, desk, etc) in the amount of the check from a favored vendor, paying online. The quicker you get the equipment, the quicker you can start earning the big bucks! Only of course there’s no vendor, no office equipment. The money, real this time, goes straight to the scammer, who pockets it. The bank then goes after the scamee to recover its money. The scammer, by then, is long gone, all traces erased.

Our increasingly frantic warnings began to penetrate Polly’s desire to believe she’d found her dream job, enough so that she drug her feet on ordering the office equipment, and the bank discovered the deposit was bogus before she’d spent the money … save for $20 she withdrew and spent on herself, believing it was part payment for the online training sessions she’d completed. Which $20 has now cost her $70 in penalties & fees and she’s lucky not to have been arrested for fraud.

Me showing her Reddit testimonials from fellow job-seekers who’d fallen for the exact same scam didn’t turn her head. You know what did? Her mom asking her if the company had ever had her fill out a W-2 tax withholding form. Once she started thinking about that, the scales began to fall from her eyes.

Good lord. Aren’t adult children supposed to keep dotard parents out of the clutches of scammers, not the other way around?

Long as I’m in share mode, here’s a neighborhood tale for you.

Last year the middle-aged husband who lives up the cul de sac from us announced her transition. Chuck was now Jolene. Okay, a surprise to me, but do you ever really know anyone or what they’re going through? Good for her, I thought, though I wondered what Jolene’s wife of many years thought about the whole deal.

Well, Donna was out walking the other day and crossed paths with the wife, who goes out every morning for a long run. They walked together and talked, and Donna learned Jolene had actually started her transition three years ago, and that it was no secret to some in the neighborhood.

Three years ago I was finishing my last term as HOA president. Not knowing any of this, when neighbors began to complain about then-Chuck and his wife, complaints about bright backyard lights burning late into the night, patio furniture in the driveway, and noise from their chickens, I took the complaints at face value. Sadly, some neighbors had bypassed the HOA and lodged complaints with the county sheriff, who I learned had visited then-Chuck on more than one occasion. A few days into trying to solve the disputes, someone taped an anonymous letter to my door, saying there was a peeping Tom in the neighborhood. All this stuff happened over the space of a few weeks. Thinking I understood the situation, I called then-Chuck and asked him to be more considerate of his neighbors. Apparently he complied … at least the complaints stopped. I heard no more about the alleged peeping Tom, though by then I’d figured out the letter came from then-Chuck, who I could see might be feeling persecuted.

Now I know it was persecution, and it wasn’t over bright lights, patio furniture, or chickens. I do not anticipate serving on the HOA again, but should hell freeze over and the unthinkable happen, I’ll know better than to take neighborly disputes at face value. There’s always something personal behind them, something people don’t want to openly discuss.

As for Jolene and her wife, apparently a divorce is in the works, but for now peace and quiet has returned to our little Peyton Place.

Oh, did I mention the the three cops who showed up at our door last month to do a welfare check on Polly? We don’t know what triggered it, because Polly won’t tell us, but she must have had a meltdown in some public place, bad enough that someone reported it. Now I can only imagine what neighbors think goes on behind our doors!

I’ve probably shared too much. Do with it what you will. Life is full of surprises, and all I can do is roll with them.

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