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One Woman’s Story of Attempted Suicide and Survival After a Scam, Part 2

With the support of her family and professional help, Kathy begins to heal

spinner image A woman's retirement savings was stolen by a criminal who she met playing Words With Friends.

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spinner image infographic quote that reads "I was in intensive care for four days, and I couldn't even look at my family. I cried and cried. I was so embarrassed."
Full Transcript


[00:00:01] Bob: This week on The Perfect Scam.

[00:00:03] Kathy Book: They took me in an ambulance to a trauma center in Trenton, and I was in intensive care for four days, and I couldn't even look at my family. I cried and cried. I would cover up my face. I was so embarrassed,


[00:00:24] Bob: Welcome back to The Perfect Scam. I’m your host, Bob Sullivan. Today is part 2 of our series on Kathy Book, who was victimized by someone she met playing Words with Friends. The criminal or criminals manipulated her into sending a large portion of her family's life savings. She was so distraught that she attempted to take her own life. She survived thanks to quick work by her husband and local police. A suicide expert tells us that financial distress is one warning sign for people at risk of self-harm. We'll hear a lot more from him about warning signs and what loved ones can do in a moment. And now is a good time to remind you that if you or someone you know is in crisis right now, you can dial or text 988 and get immediate help from a professional. When we left Kathy, she had been taken to a hospital where doctors cared for her physical wounds. There was still a long road ahead to deal with her emotional wounds.

[00:01:27] Kathy Book: Yes. So they took me in an ambulance to a trauma center in Trenton, and I was in intensive care for four days, and I couldn't even look at my family. I cried and cried. I would cover up my face. I was so embarrassed, and then I had to go to a psychiatric hospital for um, 10 days over Christmas. So I spent Christmas by myself.

[00:01:52] Bob: And she went from there into a group therapy program and that's when things started to really turn around for Kathy.

[00:02:00] Kathy Book: I participated in everything, and I started realizing everything that I had done, and I did really well there, and they said I did very good. And I was proud of myself.

[00:02:11] Bob: And then the hard work continued with extensive one-on-one therapy.

[00:02:16] Kathy Book: And I saw Marjorie once a week for four months, and we talked, you know, every time, and she really helped me, gave me some powerful things to on, on index cards for me to say every day which has helped me so much.

[00:02:33] Bob: Would you mind sharing some of those, or are those very personal, you don't want to.

[00:02:36] Kathy Book: Oh no, it's fine. "The past is over. I am at peace." "I am now in control." "I am safe and supported." "I can do this." "Process of positive change; I am freeing myself from stress." "I trust the process of life." "I am calm, confident, and powerful." "I'm ridding my mind of negative thoughts and filling them with positive ones." "I am proud of all that I am." "The only approval I'll ever need is mine." "My inner gifts will change the world." "I am capable of solving any problems that face me." Lastly, "At this moment I choose to release the past and look forward to the good that awaits me."

[00:03:41] Bob: Those are all very beautiful. Do--, does it help you?

[00:03:44] Kathy Book: Yes, absolutely, yes.

[00:03:46] Bob: Kathy's long road to recovery also involves dealing with the debt the crime left her with. So she's gone back to work at age 73, but that has had surprise benefits too.

[00:03:59] Kathy Book: I prayed to God that I could find something that was close, flexible, and had nice people. And the place I work, I don't know whether you ever heard of Wawa?

[00:04:10] Bob: Oh, of course.

[00:04:12] Kathy Book: So it's a half a mile from my house. And there's a great manager of the store there that's really been nice to me, as well as all the workers, and it's very flexible, and I'm very happy there. Um in fact, it’s ironic, I didn’t even know this was coming but I only worked there for, I guess, two or three months and I got the customer service award for, I think June. And then I got a raise, so I was like very shocked and very happy and it really helped my confidence.

[00:04:12] Bob: That’s fantastic, wowj

[00:04:51] Kathy Book: Yeah

[00:04:53] Bob: The job is helping with the debt, but financial recovery will take time. Fortunately, there's been some relief on that side of the story too.

[00:05:03] Bob: How far along the road are you to getting back on your feet as far as the debt it concerned?

[00:05:08] Kathy Book: My husband has tried to negotiate with some of the credit card companies, and they got it down a little bit.

[00:05:15] Bob: That's good, that's positive, yeah, so you're, you're in the right direction. You can sort of see light at the end of the tunnel, right?

[00:05:20] Kathy Book: Yes.

[00:05:22] Bob: With the return of her confidence and those regular affirmations, Kathy starts to be able to appreciate the little things again. Remember from last episode Kathy had spent last Christmas season worried sick about everything that was happening.

[00:05:37] Kathy Book: And you know it was December, and I didn't even want to listen to Christmas music, you know, if I was in the car, I couldn't even stand it. I wanted to throw up. And it was so funny, yesterday I was driving, and on one of the channels where I live, in my car, they were playing Christmas music because it was Christmas in July, July 25th.

[00:06:01] Bob: (chuckles)

[00:06:01] Kathy Book: And I actually left it on and I listened to the music because I thought I missed that from last December. How ironic. God just does these little things for me all the time.

[00:06:16] Bob: You got to have your Christmas back. That's great.

[00:06:20] Bob: And so as Kathy starts to enjoy the little things of life again, she also starts to enjoy the big things. This year marked Kathy's 50th wedding anniversary with her husband, Larry. And...

[00:06:33] Kathy Book: Larry want--, he said, "We should celebrate." And I kind of didn't know, but he said we should. I said, okay. So I called the church; they had the date open. I called the country club where he golfs. They had the date open. And this was in March I started this. I called people for; I wanted them to play music because we were at a party where they played music before. And they were available. Everything was available, and it was like it was meant to be. And I was so grateful for that. And then just you know thinking about who we were, we were inviting, and, you know this and that. Well, just getting my mind off of what I did and planning and um, you know, planning the food, and planning the date and, and it was so ironic that when I started planning, everything fell into place.

[00:07:26] Bob: Kathy's still nervous to see all her family and friends in person. Many for the first time since everything that happened. But before Kathy tells us what happens at that anniversary party, we wanted to take a moment to talk with an expert on suicide, so we could all know more about how to spot when someone we love might be at risk. So again, here's Jonathan Singer, a professor at Loyola University - Chicago and Past President of the American Association of Suicidology.

[00:07:56] Jonathan Singer: Okay, so some of the classic warning signs for suicide risk, include disconnecting from people socially, and that might mean these days deactivating social media accounts. It could mean not hanging out with people that you would normally hang out with. Other warning signs include difficulty sleeping, either sleeping more than usual or less than usual, and again I realize that, you know, people at different stages of their life can have difficulty sleeping, so that in and of itself is not necessarily a standalone warning sign. But if you hear people saying things like, you know I, I've really screwed up, and I think that, you know, people would be better off if, if I weren't alive, or if I weren't here.

[00:08:43] Bob: Context matters and careful listening can help. But most of us aren't suicide experts, so it's important not to leap to conclusions either way.

[00:08:52] Jonathan Singer: I think kind of a knee-jerk reaction for most people is to not take that seriously and to say, no, what are you talking about? We, like we love you. Like of course we, of course you belong, right? And not, and not hear it as a suicidal statement. And then if you have signs of depression, you know, again the, the sense of hopelessness, the sadness, the blunted affect, right, it's a, it should be a really happy experience and it doesn't seem like the person is able to enjoy it. When, when you start to have all of these things happening together, right, somebody saying, "I feel like nobody would care if I lived or died," or somebody, or people would be better off if I were dead, and I haven't been sleeping well, and you know, I know that I've been going bowling with these folks for years, but I've stopped going, and it's really hard for me to find joy even in the little things, right. When you have all of those things together, those are signals that something is going on that is likely part of this person's thoughts about wanting to kill themselves. So another risk factor, particularly for adults, is either starting to drink or use drugs that they ordinarily wouldn't use in quantities they wouldn't use, or to start up for the first time. What we know is that people are more likely to report thoughts of suicide and attempt suicide when under the influence, and that they are more likely to make a more lethal attempt when they are under the influence than, than when they're not.

[00:10:36] Bob: And so it's important that all of us learn how to pick up on signs that something is really wrong.

[00:10:43] Jonathan Singer: So it can be hard to see the signs, but we do know that a, a fair number of people indicate this sense of hopelessness or this sense of burdensomeness, that they will share things and if you know what to listen for, it's easier to recognize it. Again, any one of the things that I mentioned, it could just be a Wednesday, right? You know it's like, oh, so and so had too much to drink tonight. Fair enough. Somebody isn't getting a lot of sleep. Okay, fine. But when you start pulling these things together, especially when people are giving away possessions, when they're shoring up their will, when they are disconnecting from others, you know, and they're doing those sorts of things then that's when you stop and you say, wait a minute. I wonder if this person is having thoughts of ending their life.

[00:11:36] Bob: Perhaps one day you'll arrive at a moment when you worry someone you care about is at risk. But you don't know what to do. That's natural. You might even be afraid to bring up the subject that you might do more harm than good. That's only natural too.

[00:11:50] Jonathan Singer: And that's the point where folks get really scared to ask the question, because they're worried that by asking the question, they're going to put the idea into someone's head. And what we know from research, and what we know from clinical experience, is that that's not true. You can't make somebody suicidal by asking them the question, having you been having thoughts of killing yourself?

[00:12:14] Bob: That seems like a really important piece of information. So I'm going to ask you to talk a little bit more about that. So there's actually research that shows just asking a simple question, are you having suicidal thoughts, can't do any harm.

[00:12:30] Jonathan Singer: That's right. That's right. So there's been a lot of research over almost the last 20 years that demonstrates that asking the question, are you thinking of killing yourself, are you having thoughts of suicide, not only does it not increase suicide risk for those who are currently suicidal, it actually results in, in people feeling less distress, right. There, there's actually a therapeutic value in someone asking the question, and for folks that aren't suicidal, there is no evidence to suggest that someone asking that question actually increases suicide risk.

[00:13:14] Bob: So for example, say someone you love has been the victim of a scam and you know they're taking it very hard. You can have a heart-to-heart with the victim about how they're feeling, and you can feel free to ask about suicidal thoughts if you are worried about that.

[00:13:29] Jonathan Singer: If somebody, if you say, hey, so, I, I just found out about what happened with you and your life savings, and it sounds awful, and I understand how upset you are, and, and I'm just wondering if with all that's going on, have you been having thoughts of ending your life? And they say to me, uh, no. No. I have my grandkids, and I have this, and I'm miserable but I, I, I wouldn't do that. The worst-case scenario is that they will know that you care enough to ask the question that most people are terrified to ask. They say, well, you know, nobody's actually asked me that, but and I'm embarrassed to say this, but yeah, I have been having these thoughts and it scares me, because it'll be three in the morning and I'm laying in bed, and I just can't help but think that I've so screwed this up that people would probably be better off if I were dead. And then you have the conversation.

[00:14:32] Bob: It strikes me that very well-intentioned people might think to themselves, I don't want to offend someone, or my, my brother is going to hate me if I ask this question, right? That's not, that's not going to happen, right?

[00:14:43] Jonathan Singer: Well, I, I can't say that nobody will be offended by that question. But what I would say is that it's better to have someone that you care about mad at you for a short period of time, than for that person to be dead.

[00:15:01] Bob: It's only natural to be afraid of where a conversation like this might take you. Most of us aren't trained social workers, and so it can be scary to talk with someone about deep feelings or suicide, but there are some pretty specific steps you can take, and Dr. Singer is happy to walk us through those.

[00:15:20] Jonathan Singer: And at the end of the day, when a loved one asks somebody they care about if they are thinking of suicide, and they get an affirmative answer, right, then that is the time when. if you don't have training in this, right, if this is, if you don't happen to be volunteering on a crisis line or you're, you're not already a healthcare professional or a counselor in your, in your personal life, that's when you start to reach out to others who can have this conversation and, and, and dive in in a way that it might be really difficult for you as the grandson or the, the husband or the, the daughter to do this.

[00:16:09] Bob: Okay, so let's say the answer is what you described, I just can't seem to get these thoughts out of my head. Well what is the next step someone should take?

[00:16:18] Jonathan Singer: So if you find out that somebody you love is suicidal, there are a couple of things you can do. Number one, you can ask a couple more questions like, "Have you thought about how you're going to do it?" Right, which is kind of the generic way of saying, do you have a plan? And if they say yes, then you, then you can, you can ask the question, do you know when you're going to do it? And if they're, and if they say, you know, I'm going to do it pretty soon, then you can make a decision about kind of how urgent it is. And so for, for all of these scenarios, one option is always to call 988. 988 is the suicide and crisis lifeline. It used to be a longer number, and it used to be an 800-number, but it's now 988. And 24/7 all across the country in Spanish and in English, you have people that are trained to talk to folks about suicidal thoughts. So that would be an immediate thing to do, right, is to say, hey, I would love it if you spoke with somebody at the crisis line. Now the crisis line is not 911, right, the crisis line is not a dispatch service that's going to send out the police or EMS. In very rare cases where somebody is actively attempting suicide, there might be a dispatch to go intervene, what's called an active rescue. But 98% of the time it's a phone call to somebody who is trained to be able to talk about that. Now another option is if the person has a primary care provider, may--, maybe they're already seeing a therapist, right, maybe they've got a psychiatrist, would be to make a call immediately to that person, day or night, and try and speak with that person, or at least set up an appointment for the next day so that they could get in and talk with a professional. Now if they don't have one, or if they, for, and there are lots of reasons why people don't want to talk to medical professionals or mental health professionals, if they're part of a faith community, and you know that their faith leader would be open to talking about that and not sort of engage in some sort of like theologically-based shaming, then I would encourage them to speak with that person, right.

[00:18:41] Bob: Getting that person into a conversation with a professional as soon as possible is key and should be your top priority.

[00:18:49] Jonathan Singer: One of the things that we know about the sense of being in a dark tunnel with no way out, is that that in and of itself can become a self-fulfilling prophesy, but the minute you, you talk about it, you start to open up the light, right. You start to have possibility come into the conversation to where something that seemed overwhelming half an hour ago, now doesn't seem overwhelming, and maybe in an hour from now there's actually some hope. And so that's what you're going for.

[00:19:24] Bob: Are there a couple of mechanical tips like it, let's say the person says, "I have thought about how. I do think I might do it soon," I mean do you like grab your cellphone and dial 988 and hand it to the person?

[00:19:36] Jonathan Singer: So if you're sitting next to somebody and they're saying, yeah, I've actually been thinking about how I might end my life, and you know, I know how to do it, and I was actually thinking about doing it sometime this weekend. I mean what I would, what I would say in that moment is, "It sounds like you are, you're thinking that, that you and everybody else will be better off if you are dead. And I just, you know, I don't say this to guilt you or shame you, but I would be devastated if you weren't here. And I know lots of people that it would change their life for the worse. And I would love for you to be able to talk to somebody about what's going on. Would it be okay if I called the crisis line right now? And we can be on the phone together, you can be on the phone by yourself, I just feel like we really need to have some support here." 

[00:20:29] Bob: If you feel like the person is in immediate physical danger, and that person refuses to talk to someone to get help, say they won't call 988, then calling 911 is an option.

[00:20:41] Jonathan Singer: Now, and if they say no, and you feel like they are actively going to do something to end their life, nobody, nobody can make you, at this point, intervene, but a last case scenario would be to contact 911 and to let them know, I'm worried that my grandmother is going to end her life. She told me that she knows how to end her life. That she's been looking up ways on the internet to do it. And, and then when we were on the phone, she hung up. She lives at this address. Can you go do a welfare check? Right, and so that is, that is a way to activate our emergency services to go out and intervene. Again, this is something that is a very last case scenario, right, and one of the reasons is because when emergency services intervenes, they're either looking typically for a medical emergency, and if the police are involved, then behavioral crises turn into legal crises, and that can be problematic on multiple levels.

[00:21:46] Bob: In some limited cases, 988 operators have the ability to conduct welfare checks now.

[00:21:53] Jonathan Singer: They're still building out capacity, but there are many crisis centers that have mobile outreach, so for example Behavioral Health Response in St. Louis has a, a crisis call center and they have masters' level trained social workers, counselors, who are part of mobile crisis response, and they go out and they are the ones to do the, the home visits. And again, only in the most rare circumstances is there the need for law enforcement.

[00:22:27] Bob: It's quite possible that you might get a more nuanced or vague answer to the suicide question, however. Here's what to do in that case.

[00:22:36] Jonathan Singer: So if somebody says, "Yeah, I've been having thoughts of suicide, but I don't have a plan," then at that point, you know, there's a little bit more time and one of the things that's helpful is to, if possible, you can get them into therapy, which I know can be challenging, because therapy costs money, and if part of the issues is finances, then you've got to figure out how to pay for that, but one of the things that you would do in therapy would be to help support the person in some problem-solving, if there are distorted thoughts about how they've ruined lives, if there are ways in which they feel like they have broken people's trust, relationships, then therapists are trained to address that. And so what they're doing is they're addressing the things that surround the suicidal thoughts with the idea being that if you're able to say, yes, I, I did something that hurt others, and at the same time, I matter to others, right, being able to hold those two ideas in your mind at the same time can be really difficult to do on your own, and so having a therapist who can help, help get to that point can be really invaluable and life affirming.

[00:23:49] Bob: Life affirming like Kathy's affirmation cards.

[00:23:53] Jonathan Singer: Affirmations, the idea behind them is that over time you, you, you start to say something that directly challenges a core belief that you might have. Like let's say your core belief is I'm a failure. Or nobody loves me. Or I'm unlovable. Or I'm, I, I can't trust myself. Nobody should trust me, right? So let's say those are some core beliefs. If you have very specific affirmations that are things like even though I'm not perfect, I matter to people. Or every day I can make choices that will benefit me and others. Right, so you, so you do things that sort of directly counter these, what some people would call negative core beliefs. And in doing so, over time it might seem silly, but for some people they actually start to change these core beliefs that they have about themselves, and, and start to replace them with core beliefs that would not lend themselves to suicide, or suicidal thoughts.

[00:25:07] Bob: There's been a lot of research about suicide over the past several decades which has filled out our understanding of who is most at risk. We mentioned last episode that men over 85 are at the highest risk, which might be a surprise to many of you, it surprised me. But some other risk factors might also be a surprise.

[00:25:27] Jonathan Singer: So youth suicide, when we talk about youth suicide in the news, we're usually talking about 15 to 24. And so suicide for that age group, in general, it's the second leading cause of death for adolescents. And so we hear a lot about how suicide is one of the biggest killers in adolescents. But that's because adolescents don't die by other things, right? Adults tend to attempt suicide and die by suicide more often than adolescents, in part, because physically it's much easier for them to die. Suicide is also lower on the list of leading causes of death for adults, because they die by other things; cancer, heart disease, strokes, etc., etc. So this is why when I talk about deaths by suicide, yes, suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents, but the suicide rate, right, the number of people who died by suicide per 100,000, is about three times as high for older adults as it is for adolescents.

[00:26:37] Bob: Also it might be surprising to learn about the role of gender in suicide risk.

[00:26:42] Jonathan Singer: So I think one of the things that's important is when we think about suicide and adults, oftentimes we have this sort of stereotypical image of the white man. And what's true is that numerically white men are more likely to die by suicide than any other group. So for example, in 2021, almost 70% of suicide deaths were white males. It's much less common for women to die by suicide, even though women are more likely to attempt suicide. And you know without getting into some of the ways that race and uh ethnicity and gender identity and, and rural or urban play into this, if we're just talking about kind of the, these basic stats, I think it's important to recognize that oftentimes we don't think about suicide risk in women. And that is problematic, because we can see women engaging in what are sort of, sort of gender stereotypes of being emotional about being maybe depressed, or maybe being sad, or getting angry, right, so that, sort of the emotionality and not think about is this connected to suicidal thoughts? And if, if we don't remember that suicide is an equal opportunity killer, and that there is no group that is immune to suicide that, you know, we should always have in the back of our mind when we see somebody who's really struggling, the option of asking them if they're having thoughts of suicide. As scary as that can be.

[00:28:36] Bob: For someone who has been in crisis but survived it, like Kathy, the experience lives on. And there is plenty of help for that group too.

[00:28:46] Jonathan Singer: So you have folks like Kevin Hines and, and Dese’Rae and Craig and Kevin, they've all talked about how, you know, speaking about their struggles with suicidal thoughts and their suicide attempts, this is something that they live with, they live with every day, right? And it's like somebody who has been diagnosed with diabetes, right? They have to do things to keep themselves healthy. They have to do some things every day to manage these suicidal thoughts and so if, if you're somebody who's never had thoughts of suicide and you, you, you have a crisis, it's possible that you might find that you don't have thoughts of suicide anymore once the crisis goes away. But it's possible that you might continue to have those thoughts, and you're not alone. And it doesn't mean that you're somehow damaged or deficient, or that it's going to be bad for the rest of your life. It just means this now something that needs to be part of your self-care, right, it's part of your partnerships with others. Who, who do you talk to? How do you, how do you let folks know that you're moving into a space where you're thinking about suicide more than you were a couple of weeks ago, and what do they do, right? So this is the part where having that as part of your narrative and setting up supports is really important, and it's what people do.

[00:30:09] Bob: Kathy Book has learned to live and is starting to thrive after surviving her suicide attempt to reconnect with things she loves and with family. A big part of that involves forgiveness, she says. She learned a lot about forgiveness when she was in group therapy.

[00:30:27] Kathy Book: And I just sat there, and I just listened, and I observed, and I took all of the information that they gave because they passed, they had handouts every day, and they touched on different subjects about our personalities and how to do this, and how to do that. And I even asked them, I said, how, can you give me something to take home to my family so that they could read on how to forgive me? And they did that. They gave me papers about that. And then we talked about how to forgive yourself. I mean I have a whole, whole file of all of this stuff that they gave me to get me back on track. And I learned so much there.

[00:31:11] Bob: But like so many things, forgiveness takes time. Kathy is still learning to let go of the past.

[00:31:20] Kathy Book: We're not rich, but we were, we're comfortable. We're able to pay our bills, you know. And I messed that up, and I just feel so bad about that. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to punish myself.

[00:31:31] Bob: And that's why forgiveness is so important.

[00:31:34] Kathy Book: Yes.

[00:31:35] Bob: But it's not like an on/off switch, it's a process.

[00:31:39] Kathy Book: Yes, it, it's, it goes on and off, you know, some days are really good and some days I get, you know, I think about it, you know, and then my mind, it, while I'm working, my--, I'm taking, my mind takes me off of that, and I just try to enjoy what I'm doing.

[00:31:55] Bob: And so she was still working on forgiving herself and that's part of the reason Kathy was hesitant to celebrate her anniversary at a big family party where she'd have to face everyone. But...

[00:32:08] Kathy Book: It all worked out perfectly. The decorations on the table, my neighbor helped me with that. Different things, and then our grandchildren were there and it was so beautiful because both of our granddaughters, they're the same age; they both go to different Catholic schools up in north Jersey, and they made their Holy Communion on the same day in May. And I told them, I want you to wear your communion dresses for my party. And they did. And they looked beautiful in their little white dresses, and they danced, everybody danced and every song that this couple played or sang, I chose. Every song. And I even gave them instructions on how to, when to play the songs, how loud to be, how not loud. And I had them, I wrote this down for them. I said, "You call us up, Larry and Kathy," and then they called up our son and his wife, and our daughter and her husband, and then they said, "Okay, grandchildren come on up." And then they stood with their parents, and then the guy says, "All right. Are you ready to dance?" And we said, "Yes." And then he played, "We are Family."

[00:33:16] Bob: (chuckles) That's great.

[00:33:19] Kathy Book: And I, I, that was all of my instructions for him to do that. So you know we just had a really, really beautiful, nice time.

[00:33:29] Bob: And it's amazing to think, I mean you almost missed it, right?

[00:33:32] Kathy Book: I know. I'm so, I will never take anything for granted. The plants outside, the trees, everything after I got out of that psychiatric hospital, I just knew I was never going to take anything for granted because I almost didn't make it.

[00:33:55] Bob: And then, all those 40 people were there to celebrate that you did.

[00:33:59] Kathy Book: Yes.

[00:34:00] Bob: We are family. I can't think of a better ending to this part of Kathy's story. And so Kathy, fresh off her big party and celebrating Christmas in July and getting a raise at work, well she's decided she really wants to help other people, other scam victims who might find themselves in the same place that she was.

[00:34:23] Kathy Book: Yes. So I'm dedicated to advocate for others who may become victims of these scammers. This is the first time that I'm doing a podcast. I, I saw somebody uh and the reason I decided is because I saw somebody on Good Morning America I guess a couple months ago, a woman. And they were interviewing her. They did a report on her that she did the same thing as me. AARP has her going around doing speaking engagements, and I thought about that, and thought and thought, and I thought, you know I would so much like to you know help others, share my story.

[00:35:00] Bob: That someone Kathy saw on TV was Kate Kleinert who we've had on The Perfect Scam, not too long ago. And Kate is inspiring. We're happy to know Kate inspired Kathy to come forward and talk about her journey. And so, I asked Kathy, what is it you really want to say to people who might be in a situation like what you faced?

[00:35:23] Kathy Book: I want them to know to stay strong, and don't let anybody ask them for money, never.

[00:35:36] Bob: And if Kathy could talk to a victim of a scam who is having suicidal thoughts right now what would she say?

[00:35:43] Kathy Book: Don't do it. Go get some help. Talk to a therapist if you don't want to talk to your family and start there. And help, let them help you guide yourself through that so that you could take different steps than I did. So that you could keep your life and you put yourself back in charge now. And you can do this, like all of those cards that I just read before, you can get through it. If I did, anybody can. You, we always hear that saying, "Oh if I did, you know, you can." Well I'm, I'm proof that you can.

[00:36:28] Bob: Making that first step, reaching out to at least one other person is the hardest thing to do, especially in a scam situation where the criminal has often manipulated the victim into not saying anything to anyone. But talking is the best first step.

[00:36:47] Kathy Book: If you don't want to talk to somebody you know, because you know you can't, because you feel so stupid and embarrassed and distraught, go seek help. Go to a therapist. Find somebody that will take, you know, if you have insurance; find somebody that will take your insurance and tell them you're desperate and you need to talk to them. And I'm sure you know you give them the situation; they'll take you. And go and cry yourself out with them, and maybe they can help you, and they will help you to get on a different path of life to get out from what you're doing or thinking about doing like I did.

[00:37:31] Bob: And so, now is a good time to remind listeners that there is always someone who can listen. There are plenty of resources. If you're a victim of a scam and you want help working through the financial implications of that, the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline is available Monday through Friday from 8 am to 8 pm Eastern time at 877-908-3360. Now is also a good time to offer out thanks to the Fraud Helpline volunteers who work tirelessly with the victims of fraud, victims like Kathy, help them on their journey. But if you are in emotional crisis right now, you can call or text 988 and get immediate help from a professional. Most of all, know that you aren't alone. There are people who will listen and help. Reach out. That's what we all want for each other, especially here at The Perfect Scam family.


[00:38:39] Bob: If you have been targeted by a scam or fraud, you are not alone. Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. Their trained fraud specialists can provide you with free support and guidance on what to do next. Our email address at The Perfect Scam is:, and we want to hear from you. If you've been the victim of a scam or you know someone who has, and you'd like us to tell their story, write to us or just send us some feedback. That address again is: Thank you to our team of scambusters; Associate Producer, Annalea Embree; Researcher, Sarah Binney; Executive Producer, Julie Getz; and our Audio Engineer and Sound Designer, Julio Gonzalez. Be sure to find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. For AARP's The Perfect Scam, I'm Bob Sullivan.



In part 2, after a scammer she meets playing Words With Friends steals most of her family’s savings, Kathy is so distraught that she attempts to take her own life. She survives thanks to the quick actions of her husband and police, and with the support of her family and professional help, Kathy starts on the road to recovery. The emotional wounds of scams are deep, but Kathy is healing by sharing her story. She hopes that others who might be feeling the way that she did know that there is life and even joy after a scam — Kathy and her husband recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

This episode contains discussion of suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call or text 988, a free nationwide service where professionals can listen and get you the help you need. 

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