When most adult children hear of scams targeting seniors, they understand the situation, but assume it would never happen to their parents. In fairness, most articles and advice you’ll find on the subject provide generic information. With so few first-hand accounts, it’s hard for many people to visualize just how these fraudulent companies operate.
One of the things you need to know is that, these scams artists don’t simply appear on your doorstep asking for money, it’s much more thought out than that. Recently however, there’s been a bit of a stir with a company in the Greater Seattle Area that—although tragic—helps provide an example of what to look out for.
We received a letter from one of our former clients about a scamming company: Beacon Plumbing. Even investigators report that the company is allegedly targeting elderly parents living alone. They charge huge sums of money for jobs that should be $1000–at maximum.
This is that story.
The Beacon Plumbing Scam
Marsha is an adult child of an ailing mother and independent father. Her two parents live in their own home… but on March 4th, her mother suffered a fall and needed hip surgery. Although the surgery was a success, the strain on her body caused a heart attack followed by pneumonia. She was not in the best of health and few of the staff expected her to ever leave the hospital.
3 days later, Marsha’s 89-year-old father noticed the sink wasn’t draining and there was the distinct smell of sewage. Although he’d previously taken care of these things on his own, he didn’t want to risk falling in a wet zone like the bathroom, so he called Beacon Plumbing. He knew it couldn’t be too severe since the toilet and shower drained fine so he assumed this would be a quick fix. All he needed was for the blockage in the sink to be cleared.
Beacon sent two large plumbers to his house and after a scant inspection, they claimed it would be significantly more money since it couldn’t “just” be hair clogged in the sink. Marsha’s father tried to argue with them, but he’s extremely hard of hearing, so he couldn’t tell if they were listening or flat out ignoring him. What he did understand was they kept leaving the house and returning with more tools and handing him the estimated costs (which continued to increase substantially).
It was at this point that he called Marsha and her brother Tom to come and help him.
Both Tom and Marsha were at the hospital with their dying mother, so Tom responded to the call first to find out what their dad needed. According to their father, the plumber’s bill was currently set at $6,000 but that was a conservative estimate and would only put a band-aide on the problem. The job could be fixed permanently with $16,000. The father expressed panic as they kept coming up to him and adding more to the bill.
As a result, Tom told his father stop the workers. That they should quit what they’re doing immediately while he (Tom) races over there… (read the next article for part 2).