My aunt fell in love with a scammer

My aunt fell in love with a scammer

Pay Dirt is Slate’s money advice column. Have a question? Send it to Athena here. (This is anonymous!)

Dear Pay Dirt,

My Aunt Minnie is 72 years old and is in love with a scammer. He understands very little about technology. She joins a Facebook group for fans of a performer and meets “Jack,” a supposed 50-year-old European millionaire who sweeps her off her feet. Jack and Minnie never talk on the phone, but they message each other every day. Jack asks Minnie for gift cards and money, giving lame excuses as to why he needs the money. For example, he said that he was in a bad custody battle with his ex and therefore did not have money to start a new business, could not fly to see him because of the divorce proceedings, etc. yet.

When Minnie told me about her, I immediately showed her articles about scam artists and catfishing. I explained to her what happened. However, Minnie contacted this person again. I talked to him again and convinced him not to contact her, but he texted her two days later. It’s a merry-go-round.

Minnie told me she was single, but she refused to date boys her own age. She wants a hot 50-year-old boyfriend. I was afraid that he would give this man his life savings. I tried to show him several times why this guy is a scammer, with articles from reputable sources but it didn’t stick. Do you think there is another way to reason with him? I can’t legally do anything to prevent him from contacting her and I hope there is a way to reason with him better than I have tried so far because all the explanations are about catfishing and what The way technology allows people to hide their identity does not work.

—Desperate nephew

Dear Desperate Nephew,

Poor Aunt Minnie—she’s in a real-life Catfish episode. I contacted Darius Kingsley,
managing director, head of consumer business practices at JPMorgan Chase & Co, to see what you can try to help him see the light.

First, you are right to raise alarms and follow your gut. Romance scammers will spin all kinds of stories to stir the heart, even funny ones about a millionaire who loses access to his wealth and loses his fortune. “Jack” may also be forcing Aunt Minnie to believe that you or anyone trying to stop her is “being paranoid.”

“When romance scammers make you feel uncomfortable, they make you believe you’re paranoid and imagining things,” says Kingsley. “The truth is that it probably makes you uncomfortable.”

It’s hard, but you can have a better chance with Minnie by suggesting that she push a video call between her and Jack so you can meet her. Ask to see photos of him and when he plans to meet her. Offer to help plan the trip so you can find out more about Jack without being defensive. These are all subtle ways to identify Jack as a scammer; if he stops, Minnie may start to question his reasoning.

“Online dating is becoming more popular, but it doesn’t hurt to do your due diligence and verify the person on the other end of the conversation,” Kingsley said, especially when exchanging money. Hopefully, by approaching the situation with curiosity, Minnie will realize what happened that you don’t need to resort to calling Nev.

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Dear Pay Dirt,

It’s a new year and my new year’s resolution is to set a budget! For context, I’m 27 and somehow made it this far without really tracking my expenses. Is there a best way to start so I don’t get overwhelmed? I usually spend about $400-$500 on my credit card (groceries, fun stuff, eating out, etc.) bi-weekly and just pay it off right away. But I feel that is not enough and should be more detailed about it. Is that enough—or would going into detail help? My goal this year is to save a little more, without cutting out all the fun stuff!

—New Year New Me

Dear New Year, New Year,

I’m excited for you! The good news is that by budgeting, you can save more and can spend more on fun things.

There are four different budgeting methods you can try: zero-based, the 50-30-20 method, cash envelopes, and the pay-yourself-first method. I think with your current setup, the pay-yourself-first method is right for you. This method of budgeting requires you to dedicate a percentage of your budget first to your financial goals, and then spend the rest. Say you want to save 10 percent of your income and get paid $1,500 a week. You can set up an automatic transfer of $150 for each paycheck and then spend the rest on your living expenses. You can change the percentages as often as you want and continue to charge your variable costs to your card, as you have been doing, and then pay it off.

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Dear Pay Dirt,

I have a disability that prevents me from having a solid work history at all or going to college. I got it fixed (long story!) and am off disability. But I’m now in my late 30s and working miserable retail with bad pay and worse hours because I don’t have a degree and my resume is ridiculous. I burned through almost all my savings trying to get any job. Is it worth going back to college at this point in life? Is there someone in their 40s with a fresh undergraduate degree and a job history that looks like a joke? How can I explain the big gaps without providing enough medical history to make every hiring manager run screaming? I want a better life for myself but I don’t know if that’s what I can expect.

—No longer crippled

Dear No Longer Disabled,

I am so glad to hear that you have been able to work on your health. Pat yourself on the back because, as someone with a serious illness, I know firsthand that it can be hard. I consulted with Corissa Peterson, a certified professional resume writer and career expert at Resume Genius, to get some perspective on how to brush up your resume so you can advance your career.

“People with disabilities face significant barriers to employment—from transportation complications and lack of workplace accessibility to employers’ reluctance to hire them,” Peterson said. The issue with this is that with a sporadic work history and employers not knowing the full story, it may seem like a worker is inconsistent. Therefore, in this case, it helps to move from a chronological resume layout and try something less traditional like a functional (or skill-based) one instead.

A practical (or skills-based) resume highlights an employee’s skills that can be transferred to any job, including those outside of retail. Using this format, you can replace your professional experience section with a large skills section. You can also highlight accomplishments from previous roles or experiences. This type of resume helps employers see that while you may not have direct experience in a specific role, you do have the skills they need and want. “For example, if you’re applying for a customer service representative position, you might include ‘Customer Service’ as a skill, and create a bulleted list of various experiences and accomplishments that demonstrate your customer service skills,” Peterson said.

Another option that may appeal to employers is a combination resume. This format combines a skills section with a professional experience. “[By] using these two formats, you can shift attention away from a variety of work history and keep the focus on what makes you qualified for the position,” Peterson said.

Now, about school. I advocate attending higher education, and so does Peterson if you have a clear career goal. For example, if you know you want to go into medicine, that will require some kind of degree. But if you’re not clear on exactly what you want to do in medicine, it may make more sense to research trade programs and other certifications that don’t require a lot of time or money. This will help you get to work faster. Good luck!

-Athena

Classic Prudie

I’ve been with my therapist for a long time, and I’m afraid that if I tell her, she won’t feel comfortable being my therapist. The crush got so bad that I was very nervous in the hours leading up to our appointment. Also, I think my fear that telling her would make her uncomfortable with my therapist was part of something bigger.

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