By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
If you love and care about your parents or grandparents, please make sure that you read this article to them, or give it to them. It is crucial. There are thieves and scam artists out there that are specifically targeting them. And, in this author’s view, there is a halachic obligation to protect their finances.
THE FIRST EXAMPLE
Yes, there are people, vile and evil individuals, who specifically target the elderly. They call a grandparent and tell them that their grandchild is in grave trouble, trouble that requires immediate cash. And the problem is that they are very convincing.
What loving grandparent wouldn’t do almost anything for a grandchild?
The stories are believable, because, somehow, the fraudsters or thieves have obtained inside information about the grandchild or grandparent. This bit of crucial information is then weaved into the story – or the tale that is spun.
Sometimes, the thieves pretend to be the grandchild himself. At other times, the thieves are a lawyer or representative of the grandchild. The thieves are VERY SOPHISTICATED. So, for one, when your Bubby or Zayde call – make sure you answer the phone call immediately and tell them that you are alright. And for two, go over the details of this article with them.
THE SECOND EXAMPLE
The second type of scam involves the grandparent’s use of their own computer. They pretend that they are calling from a big company to arrange a refund. The refund amount is small, but enough to make sure that the recipient not ignore it. Let’s say that the refund amounts to $75.00.
The scammer develops a relationship with the grandparent. The scammer is very adept at saying that your grandmother reminds him of his very own grandmother, and how his own grandmother always made sure he had enough to eat.
The scammer then takes over your grandmother’s computer in arranging the refund or credit. This is fake. It is a false banking screen. The scammer makes the grandmother type in the amount, the $75.00. But then the scammer types in two extra zeroes. The grandmother’s account is now credited with $7500.
And now, the scammer, or the “employee” begs for his job. He will now be fired if the amount of $7425 is not sent back to him immediately. It must be cash and must be overnighted.
And what honest grandparent will not send the money? The “honest-sounding, loving person” with “many mouths to feed” – will be fired! And it was your grandmother’s fault!
HOW THEY OPERATE
At all times, the request involves mailing cash or gift cards through Federal Express or some other service.
They will use houses that they rent for just one day. And they have a hired hand stay in that house to pick up the package. Within an hour that person is gone.
The thieves have a huge operation. Some people are hired just to pick up clues. That is all they do. They track grandparents. They track grandchildren. This information is transferred to some sort of central headquarters where the operation is launched.
Yes, there is a Torah obligation upon all of us to prevent the proliferation of these schemers and rip-off artists within our community. It is called the obligation to be “chas al mammon chaveiro” – a fulfillment of the Torah Mitzvah of “v’ahavata larayacha kamocha.”
The Gemorah in Moed Katan 27b tells us that when Klal Yisroel were burying their dead in the finest clothing, Rabban Gamliel HaZakain arose and declared that enough was enough. The rising pressures, the “keeping up with the Joneses” in how to dress the deceased was causing enormous economic pressure on the living. “It must stop,” declared the rabbi, and the tachrichim, burial shrouds, we now use became the norm.
The great Tzemach Tzedek (of 17th century Poland), cited by the Mogain Avrohom in the beginning of hilchos Shabbos, once ruled (responsa #28) that when local fishermen collude and lift up the price of fish excessively, a prohibition can be levied upon the consumption of fish on Shabbos. It may take a week or two or even three, but eventually the collective buying power of ordinary people would force the price back down.
OBLIGATION UPON EVERYONE
We will see, however, that it is not just great Torah leaders who have saved and are concerned for the financial well-being of others. It seems that this is what is expected by the Torah of everyone.
The Gemorah (Menachos 76a) tells us that Hashem commanded Moshe to also feed the nation’s livestock from the water that He had caused to come out from the rock at Mei Merivah. Also, Rashi (Rosh Hashanah 27a) points out that the kohain first removes the vessels from the house before declaring a house impure. We thus see a number of examples of how the Torah is concerned with the financial well-being of the nation.
FOR THE PUBLIC AND FOR PRIVATE INDIVIDUALS
The difference between the two cases is that the former is for the entire nation, while the latter demonstrates that the Torah is concerned even for the individual’s finances.
SOCIAL NORM AND TORAH OBLIGATION
The Chasam Sofer on Bava Basra (54b) states that, generally speaking, one can make the assumption that fellow Jews are concerned with the monetary well-being of their fellow man, and that this assumption has legal ramifications. We see then that it is the normal behavior expected of all of Klal Yisroel.
Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher, author of the Tur, discusses (in the Choshen Mishpat section of Shulchan Aruch, chapter 35) a person who does not care about the money of others. He writes that such a person will, in the future, surely answer for it. The Minchas Chinuch writes that one who is concerned about the preservation of the money of others fulfills the Biblical commandment of v’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha (see his commentary on that mitzvah).
The type of scams mentioned above are happening in our own backyards, r”l. They are happening to our own bubbies and zaydies as well. We must inform them of these scams that are targeting them.
The clear indication from these sources is that demonstrating concern for the financial well-being of others is not just a mitzvah, it is an expected social norm with reward for those who do it and punishment for those who do not. So
May Hashem help us in ensuring that such activity be eliminated from within our community and our country and grant us yeshuos and nechamos in all areas.