Hot Line: Store employees help grandma escape scam
“I almost got scammed,” a woman told Hot Line on the telephone. “I wish you would warn other people about this so it won’t happen to anybody else.” She said she had received a phone call from her grandson who said he was in Mexico and in trouble. Then she said, “It wasn’t my grandson, but I thought it was when we were talking.”
She said she asked him, “What are you doing in Mexico?” and he replied that he had a friend in Mexico and the police had stopped him and his friend and had found marijuana in his friend’s truck. “My grandson said it wasn’t his friend’s,” she explained, “and it belonged to someone who had ridden in his friend’s truck and left it there. And my grandson was in jail and needed money.”
Hot Line recognized at once that this was the “grandchild in distress” scam. Our caller said her grandson needed $1,200 to get a court hearing the next day or he’d stay in jail.
“A man came to the phone and said he was Capt. Thomas,” she continued, “and he said it would cost my grandson $1,200 to get that hearing tomorrow, and if he didn’t get it he would be in jail a long time. I asked him how I could get the money to him and Capt. Thomas said I had to wire it by Western Union and told me how to do it.”
She said, “I didn’t know where there is a Western Union, but he told me there is a Western Union office in a drugstore here in New Philadelphia, and he gave me the address. of the drugstore.” she said. “Now how would he know that?”
She also said she was told that the situation must be kept confidential, and she must not tell anyone about it. “I didn’t have $1,200,” she said, “so I took my credit card to the Western Union office in the drugstore and asked the people there to use it to send the money.”
They warned her that it was a scam, she said, and told her how it worked. She took their advice and didn’t send the money.
Although Hot Line has warned readers several times about this scam, perhaps it’s time to do it again. Readers, if you have relatives or friends who have grandchildren, it would be a kind deed to clip this column and give it to them. Any grandparent could be the next target of con artists, and this information may help prevent their being victimized. The “grandchild in distress” scam is reported to be the third most prevalent in this country on a list of current con games. (First is the Nigerian letter scam, and second is the lottery winnings scam.)
Anna Lee Brendza is The Times-Reporter’s consumer columnist. Contact her by writing Hot Line, The Times-Reporter, Box 667, New Philadelphia 44663 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.