I read with interest the story of Bryon Martin, who was arrested in Spain and spent time in prison for smuggling drugs (“The scam of a lifetime,” Maine Sunday Telegram, Page A1, Aug. 7).

According to the article, Martin was scammed by someone posing as a pretty young artist – whom he met online while temporarily living with his adult daughter in Somerset County – into unwittingly attempting to deliver 2 kilograms of cocaine to an unknown source.

He was consequently arrested and served 11 months behind bars before being released through the efforts of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, head of the Special Committee on Aging, and Secretary of State John Kerry.

The scheme that targeted the 77-year-old Martin resulted in his incarceration. However, less serious scams in the United States are costing the elderly millions of dollars.

AN AVALANCHE OF JUNK MAIL

As an 88-year-old senior citizen, I am constantly bombarded with junk mail from companies that promise everything from relief from prostate problems to pills that will end your worst pains forever. In the past year, I have received over 500 magazines and pamphlets that are pushing their products.

Their outrageous claims are endless: cures for back pain, blood pressure, joint pain, sleep problems, fibromyalgia, bladder trouble, heart attack, stroke and – neither last nor least – flagging sex drive. These are but some of the ailments that can be ameliorated, according to the claims of a variety of companies.

The propaganda expressed in the pamphlets and magazines is hard for the gullible to ignore. For example, “The Amazing Prostate Secret” will expound on the ground-breaking improvements of their product.

“Want to have a great love life at 60, 70, and even 80? Fixing your prostate problems can give your libido a huge boost regardless of age. Remember our no-nonsense guarantee; it works for you or it’s free! No more night-time urination; no more dribbling, leaking or dripping; sleep once more like a baby.” And on and on and on.

Another magazine extols the benefits of taking its pain pills: Patients with the worst pain imaginable found relief in under an hour.

A purported medical doctor tells the story of Mrs. R.N. of Florida, who was in pain all the time. Mrs. R.N. was brought to the doctor’s office in a wheelchair because walking was too difficult. She needed handfuls of pills every day to dull the pain, and took sleeping pills at night.

But after three weeks of taking “the magic pill,” she was out of her wheelchair and sleeping the entire night without sleeping pills. She was jubilant.

Testimonials such as these are found in every magazine I have seen.

Recently, I decided to scam the scammers. I was determined to see if any of these claims were true. After all, I had nothing to lose; all the companies promised a 100 percent money-back guarantee: “If you are not thrilled for any reason, you can return the product for a full refund – even empty bottles – within 90 days. No questions asked!”

‘PANACEA’ PILLS NO PANACEA

In all honesty, I should confess to being of sound mind and in fairly good health, aside from a few aches and pains and the inability to get a good night’s sleep. After receiving a number of “panacea” pills from companies that promoted their products, I put them to the test.

Unfortunately – with the exception of the colon helper – there was no empirical evidence of changes in my condition. Subsequently, I wrote the companies for a full refund, and with two exceptions, I was fully refunded, minus shipping and handling fees.

Although I credit most of the companies for honoring their guarantees, I should ask: How many elderly citizens will take the time and effort to get a refund if the product does not help their condition?

In my situation, I was obliged to write my refund requests as soon as I received the product and then post the return request on my bulletin board in order to recall when the guarantee would expire.

In spite of the many company claims for their products, all of them include the following disclaimer: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

I hope that Sen. Collins, in her capacity as head of the Special Committee on Aging, will take steps to protect the citizens of our state from companies that prey on the elderly. And, oh, while you’re at it, Senator, I’m sure senior constituents would appreciate your looking into the outrageous costs of some prescriptions perpetrated by the pharmaceutical companies.