Integrity Matters

As the story goes, a Minnesota business man received a curious phone call one May afternoon. “Hi, Mr. Hallsworth, my name is Sharyl and I’m calling regarding an envelope with your business card and a ten dollar bill that you left at St. Cloud Lodge Hall in downtown St. Cloud. I’m just calling to find out what this is about. Please call me back. I still have the $10 and your card.”

antique shopNot knowing who Sharyl was and not being familiar with St. Cloud Lodge Hall, he returned the call. Sharyl said she had found an envelope in their mail slot a few months ago. Puzzled, he asked her for the address and Sharyl gave the street name and number, saying it was upstairs above a well-known frame shop and art supply store.

Now it all made sense. As it had happened, late in December, he had gone to the frame shop to get a picture frame repaired. Even though she was closing for the day, the shopkeeper fixed it on the spot for $5. She didn’t want to take a credit card for such a small amount, so he offered to pay with a $20 bill, the only cash in his wallet. She didn’t have change, and all the shops around were already closed for the day. The shopkeeper had suggested that he come back when he had change; she would trust him to do that. He agreed, and returned the very next day. Because she had trusted him so much, and charged him so little, he added a $5 tip to the original $5 bill. The shop was closed, so he put his card and a $10 bill through the mail slot.

It turns out the mail slot belonged instead to the office upstairs, St. Cloud Lodge Hall.

The man told Sharyl, “The $10 belongs to the frame shop downstairs. Would you please drop it off to her with my apology. I thought the mail slot was theirs.” Sharyl promised that she would.

You may be thinking that ten dollars is no big deal, but that’s not the point of this oft-told story. Had the amount been a hundred dollars, or a thousand dollars, the narrative could have been the same: The friendly shopkeeper would have told him to come back and settle up when he could. And he would return, as promised, to pay his bill. Sharyl would not have slipped the misplaced cash into her purse—which she very easily could have done—but instead would have gone to the trouble to find the rightful owner, completing the circle of integrity.

The story reminded me of another tale of integrity… a man parked his car in a downtown lot and found a $50 dollar bill on the ground, obviously dropped by someone who had inadvertently dropped it but was now nowhere to be seen. Instead of pocketing the cash, he passed it on to a homeless person on the street.

It’s reassuring to know there are still good, trusting, and trustworthy people in this world. People with integrity in matters large and small; people who can be counted on to keep their word; people who think of others before themselves. William Shakespeare said it well… “no legacy is so rich as honesty.”

Top Senior Scams

There are three areas where older Americans are most susceptible to scams:

  1. The Internal Revenue Service
  2. Medicare
  3. Charitable Giving

1. The IRS

The IRS is huge, mysterious, intimidating and powerful—and all these things make IRS scams the #1 senior scam year after year.

Email Phishing

Like it’s name implies, these scam artists are “fishing” for information. A phishing scheme happens when a senior receives a phony email claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service announcing a tax refund is due to them. If a senior provides the bad guys with their personal and financial information, their identity is stolen and used to open bogus credit cards and other financial transactions in their name.

Know what to do if you believe you’ve fallen prey to an IRS phishing scheme as recommended by U.S. News.

2. Medicare

medicare cardEveryone on Medicare will receive new cards this spring. For protection, they will no longer have your Social Security number on the front of the card—it’s being replaced with a random number/letter sequence—in an attempt to reduce scams and fraud.

So what happened? Scammers posing as Medicare “agent” or health care providers started calling senior to tell them they needed to “purchase” a replacement card. Know that the new Medicare cards are free and being sent via postal mail to your address.

If you’ve received a phone call from a Medicare scammer, call 1-800-HHT-TIPS (1-800-447-8477).

3. Charitable Giving

We are a generous country. Americans love to give and support the causes they love. Scammers know this, make charity scams #3 on the top 3 list. This scam is a phone call from someone asking for a donation, usually shortly after a natural disaster like hurricanes, floods, or fires. If the person says you must “wire the donation,” put it on a gift card, or load it on a cash reload card, it’s a scam.

If you received a solicitation after a disaster asking for money delivered by any of the above methods, hang up the phone, toss that postcard, delete the email, or shut the door…then report it to the FTC online.