That’s how much Peruvian scammers stole from Bud and Charlotte Cawyer of Smith County. They did it so methodically, so smartly that the Cawyers didn’t see it coming.

The couple – he’s 80, she’s 74 – will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary next month. They won’t be spending any money to do it. Their life savings are gone.

A man called them in April claiming to be an agent with the Social Security Administration. He said someone had used Charlotte’s Social Security number to steal $3.5 million.

Until the couple could prove it wasn’t them and until they caught the real crooks, they needed to move all of their savings into a protected account, the man said. Once the crime was solved, they’d get their money back, plus a thank-you tip of $25,000.

If they didn’t cooperate, they were going to jail.

“We were threatened,” Bud told me.

‘Problem is significant’

Tuesday was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day,…

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