Watchdog Nation pauses for a moment of reflection on the recent loss of two very good friends.
George Kahak, a former chief pilot at American Airlines, died last month at 87. You might remember the Fort Worth man because he helped me tell two important watchdog stories.
First, he let me share how he was addicted to get-rich-quick schemes. Kahak acknowledged that he never met a sales pitch he didn't fall for. He lost thousands of dollars on bogus investment deals. But he hoped that by sharing his story he could help others -- and himself.
Then, in December, he helped me expose the fake Inspector Luigi, supposedly from the U.S. Customs Service, who called Kahak to inform him that he had won a half million dollars in a lottery. First, though, Kahak had to send money to claim it.
Together we taped Luigi's false promises, then confronted him with his con. I'll miss Kahak's periodic calls to me checking the validity of the latest come-on that came his way. At least he started checking!
A second loss is John Haun, a case manager at Senior Citizen Services of Greater Tarrant County. Haun was my go-to guy for senior-related problems that I couldn't solve. He died in November at 65, but I learned about it only recently, when I referred someone to him.
"We have not replaced John," human resources manager Dorothy Aker said. "He's irreplaceable, actually."
The agency now refers cases it can't solve to the Aging and Disability Resource Center in Fort Worth at 888-730-2372.
If you know of other senior advocates willing to help people fix their problems, please let me know.
Seniors at risk
My recent report on the latest scientific evidence about why seniors are more susceptible to con artists brought more sad stories. Terry Asmus of Fort Worth told me how his mother got conned numerous times. "A plumber came and told her the entire bathroom needed to be replaced. When I got my plumber, all she needed was new faucets.
"She even stayed home one Thanksgiving because someone was going to show up with her million-dollar check for her.
"I'll never know how much money she lost," she said. "It's like she became a mark. ... It's horrible. We truly need a law passed to help the elderly."
Ellen Rubinson of Fort Worth told me her father had lost $70,000 in bad investments.
"He's 84 years old and, at this point, I believe he feels so depressed, desperate and lonely that the 'lottery' he's been promised to win is all he can think about.
"I saw a letter he received from the 'IRS' that he's won a zillion dollars and just had to send money to take care of 'processing.'
"It breaks my heart that he truly believes them and not us. ... I realize that my father has been brainwashed with the promise of winning so much money and having the rest of his days living on Easy Street."
OK, some good news
Thank you to Charter Communications for finally helping Scott Smith of Fort Worth. Smith has tried for three years to get the company to fix the sagging cables in his back yard.
Because Smith is not a Charter customer, the company would not take his repair requests seriously, he says. Finally, after a Watchdog intervention, Charter fixed it.
And continuing the positive spirit, Marvin Chosky of Bedford asks me to point out the good, not always the bad. Here goes.
Chosky wrote a letter to the head honcho at US Airways, praising an employee who was especially helpful in getting a flight changed to accommodate a family medical emergency.
The Watchdog believes in writing letters of praise for great customer service. What better way to keep motivating people to do good?
Do you have a recent example of exceptional customer service? Send me your words of praise with specifics to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dave Lieber, The Watchdog, Star-Telegram, P.O. Box 1870, Fort Worth, TX 76101.
The Watchdog column appears Fridays and Sundays.
Dave Lieber, 817-685-3830