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Della Miller, who's 89 and lives in Sebastopol, wanted to believe the friendly men who phoned her several times in recent days.

They told her she'd won $2.5 million! To collect it, she needed simply to put $200 on a Green Dot MoneyPak card, available at drug stores.

Della's smart, a retired RN and Analy school nurse. Though sorely tempted to play along on the slight chance it was real, she felt pretty sure it was a scam.

So she told me about it. She said a caller told her a team would deliver her winnings at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, and she should buy a money card beforehand.

I told her I'd come be with her. So she wouldn't have to lie about having the MoneyPak card, I stopped and put $200 on one at a CVS. But I didn't scratch off the gray strip to get to the serial number.

At her home, I told Della my guess was that there was no prize delivery team, and that the crooks on the phone would do everything they could to get her to read off the serial number that would allow them to seize the $200 from the card.

The calls began at 2:54 p.m. One man, then another, sweet-talked Della, assuring her the delivery team was nearby and would pull up once she read off the number on the MoneyPak card.

Della responded that she'd give up the number once she received her winnings check and her bank verified it.

"Sweetie, be assured," one of the two creeps told her. "I am a good person. You are in good hands. Give me those numbers so everything can be processed."

Della let me talk to him. I told him I'd like to see him go to prison for scamming elderly people. He replied that he wasn't doing all that work to try to steal $200.

Those, I believe, were the only true words he spoke. Della had already mailed in a check for $25 and I suspect that if she'd come up with the $200, the next step would be for the cons to explain why she had to pay more.

Della and I hung up and high-fived. But it makes us sick to imagine that trusting but tempted seniors elsewhere were at that moment jotting notes as nice guys on the phone said, "Sweetie, this is all you have to do ..."

LITERATE MOB: Up in neighborly, seaside Gualala, bookstore owner Joel Crockett didn't ask for help with the tough times that began when his wife, Linda, died in a Highway 1 crash in July.

Some patrons of his Four-Eyed Frog books sensed a need and planned a Cash Mob for Saturday. The idea is for supporters of the Frog and of independent bookstores to shop with Crockett that day, in Gualala or online.

Already the mourning book seller feels a bit better.

IF YOU LIKED "Sonoma Squares Murder Mystery," the serial that ran in the PD, you should know that several of the authors will read brief chapters at Saturday's Sonoma County Book Festival.

Robert Digitale and other PD colleagues will be at the Redwood Writers Reading Circle on Old Courthouse Square, near Rendez Vous Bistro, to read from their episodes. Starts at 1 p.m.

(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.)

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