$27K credit card bill forces woman to live on $17 a month

Family says woman was wrongfully charged

SAN DIEGO - A woman's generosity was turned against her and resulted in a $27,000 credit card charge, a family claims. Since the elderly woman now lives on just $17 a month, the family contacted Team 10.

It all started when 77-year-old Sherri Scott said she started getting letters from groups asking her to help save Social Security and Medicare.

She told Team 10 replied once and then letters started flooding her mailbox

"Sometimes two o'clock in the morning I was still answering the mail, but I would start in the afternoon," said Scott.

The organizations wanted her to donate to their causes.

"They started asking for money, every one of them," Scott said. "I couldn't believe it; $1,000 or $2,000 donations," said Scott.

Scott said she agreed to donate $250, and said then the letters kept coming and the companies kept charging her Discover account.

Documents show her card was sometimes charged several times a day for a total of $27,000 over eight months.

"I feel robbed," said Scott.

She lives on Social Security and couldn't pay the Discover bill.

"I had to take money out of my reverse mortgage, a line of credit to pay them off. I did that twice and then I just couldn't keep up with it," said Scott.

Her nephew, Robert Scott, started checking things out.

"The amount that was charged on the card was more than double what her credit limit was supposed to be," said Robert Scott.

He wants to know why Discover never contacted his aunt about all of these charges.

"When you add up all of the companies that have been charging her, she would have had to have been sending back two or three postcards a day, every day, for eight months to authorize each individual charge that was made," said Robert Scott.

Carolyn Reily with Elder Law and Advocacy said seniors can get overwhelmed by charity solicitations, and she called some of them scams.

Reily said seniors don't know how much they've agreed to give, and the problem eventually falls on the family members.

"When this money is gone, there is no way to recoup it because they aren't working anymore," Reily said from her San Diego office.

Now, Scott told Team 10 she is living on $17 a month. She can do it by using Meals on Wheels, but said she can barely pay them.

"I'm always a month behind in my payment, but they know I'm good for it, they keep telling me," said Scott.

Team 10 contacted Discover about the charges, and offered this statement:

"What I can tell you now is that the issue is complex and the executive services team will continue to look into the charges.

As for our process, when a cardmember claims fraud has taken place on their Discover Card account, our security team investigates the account. If the charges are found to be fraud, the customer will receive credit. If the charges are determined to be valid, the customer will be responsible for repayment. Pending the outcome of a fraud investigation, the customer receives a temporary credit for the disputed amount."

Team 10 also contacted San Diego Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood about this case. He is the lead prosecutor of elder abuse cases in San Diego County.

Greenwood contacted Discover and one of the companies behind the charges, The American Federation of Senior Citizens, and he said he is waiting to hear back from one of the appointed directors.

In the meantime, Greenwood sent a contact in Virginia to the AFSC address listed on their website, 210 N. Patrick St., Alexandria, Va. 22314.

Greenwood said the building was a yellow home with newspapers on the doorstep and no business sign, and his contact reported no movement inside and no answer at the door.

Greenwood said he will continue to look into this agency and Scott's case.

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