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3:48 PM Thu, Nov. 15th

Dear Annie: Taker in the form of a giver

Dear Annie: My brother-in-law, “Tom,” is 70 years old and a totally disabled Navy veteran. He has been duped by a con man, “Mack.”

Mack lived upstairs from Tom in an apartment building. Mack started a friendship with Tom, doing errands for him and otherwise helping him. Tom trusted Mack with his debit card, and Mack would go to the grocery for him and pay some of Tom’s bills.

Well, a year and a half later, we found out that Mack had robbed Tom of all his savings, leaving him penniless. In that time, Mack had moved in to another apartment complex. Tom was paying for Mack’s rent, gas, groceries, utilities, dates at restaurants and big TV set, because Mack would take large sums of cash out of Tom’s account. What do we do? The problem is that Tom would agree he gave Mack the debit card and knew about paying some of Mack’s bills. Tom is softhearted and really not thinking clearly. We can’t afford a lawyer. My husband is 15 years older than Tom and not well, either.

We closed Tom’s account and opened another one, putting cash in it for him and trying to pay down some of his bills to keep him from losing utilities. We are sick and frustrated about this. Should we go to the police if Tom won’t cooperate? He doesn’t understand what has happened and may deny what “friend Mack” has done to him. — Frustrated Family in Florida

Dear Frustrated Family: Tom’s soft heart has landed him in a tough situation. Because Tom knowingly has been giving Mack access to his accounts, your options for recourse are limited. Additionally, it doesn’t even sound as if he’s too interested in recourse. If he’s not of sound mind, you might be able to make a case that Mack is exploiting him and this is a form of elder abuse. Call Adult Protective Services (800-962-2873 in Florida) for guidance.

Dear Annie: I think you were so right to tell 13-year-old “Greg” that he should hand the issue of dealing with his mean biological father over to his parents. I’d like to add that Greg should consider handing his letter to his good stepfather, “Derek.” I can pretty well guarantee that Derek would put that letter in his billfold and pull it out and reread it so many times that it would become ragged and illegible, which wouldn’t matter because he’d have memorized it by then. The best people don’t realize how good they are, which is why it’s so important to tell them. And speaking of that, Greg needs to hear what a good kid he is, too. His letter is full of empathy and intelligence and conscientiousness. And if the friend helped write it, gold stars for the friend but also for Greg, because good people have good friends and recognize good advice. — I’d Love to Be His Grandma

Dear Love to Be His Grandma: I love your letter. I am printing it as a reminder to tell the good people in our lives just how much we appreciate them.

Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com. To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.