Florence Folbrecht remembers 1950 Stoughton like it was yesterday. However, remembering yesterday is the 87-year-old's biggest challenge these days.
She has lost tens of thousands of dollars over the last year to a telephone scam, and has had trouble recalling the details to tell Stoughton police how it happened.
"I thought I was helping people," she said recently in an interview at her dining room table, her phone perched just above her shoulder. "I don't remember (the details of the calls). I just know I shouldn't have done it."
Folbrecht sent the money to a foreclosed home in Phoenix. Authorities tracked the phone number that called her to an out-of-business auto body shop in Detroit. There are no leads to follow and her family assumes the money is lost forever.
"She and my dad worked all of their lives to get what they got and I was like, 'How dare you? How dare you do this to somebody like that?'" Florence's daughter, Sharon Folbrecht, said. "She doesn't like to talk about it and she gets angry a little bit. She said, 'Haven't you ever made a mistake in your life?'"
Florence raised three of her siblings, two of her own children and a nephew in addition to hiring numerous Stoughton residents to their first jobs at the restaurant and gas station she and her late husband once owned. She sold real estate until she was 80 years old, specializing in selling younger homeowners their first residences.
She's sharing this story to help her community once again.
"I didn't think I'd tell everyone because they'd think, ‘How stupid could you be?'" she said. "And that's the truth, that I was stupid. I just felt that I was helping out a worthy cause. I have to be more inquisitive than I was."
After the incident, Sharon and her brother got a financial power of attorney over their mother's bank accounts. It's checked twice per day. However, Florence's adult children decided against taking the advice of the Stoughton police to change their mother's phone number.
"She feels isolated. So if you took that phone number away, how's she going to get her calls from her friends?" Sharon said of the phone number her mother has had since she moved to Stoughton 63 years ago. "All we can do is keep a close eye on that account. That's all we can do. Is he going to call her again? I hope not, but it's a very strong possibility.
"(Still), I'm not going to take all her freedom away by taking her phone number away. I just can't. My brother and I talked about it and we just can't. I think it's too hard to do that," Sharon said.
The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington has identified financial exploitation as the crime of the 21st century and developed a guide for older Americans on how to protect themselves.
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