Be Careful of Scammers

It seems there are no shortage of scams.   They come in many forms, and it is important to keep alert and guard against being taken advantage of.  Below is an article I published in the Gold City Gazette several years ago.  

Last weekend a woman received a call from her grandson. He was frantic. He explained to her that his best friend had invited him to his wedding in Mexico and sent him a ticket to go. He continued, telling the woman that after the wedding he was driving and had been run off the road by another driver. He said that he was alright but that he had crashed into a telephone pole.

He began to cry, insisting that he had not been drinking but that the police had arrested him anyway. He said that he had even pled with the officer to give him a breathalyzer test. He went on to say that he had called the Embassy and that they had sent him a lawyer. He assured her that it had been determined that he was telling the truth but the police would not release him until he paid for the damages caused during the wreck, which totaled $1500.00.

He then put his lawyer on the phone. The lawyer told the woman that her grandson had indeed been tested and proven to have no alcohol in his system. He added that in order for her grandson to be released the damages needed to be paid. He told her that she would need to wire the money to the court recorder and gave her the contact number. He told her that he would contact her later to check to see if she had wired the funds.

The woman was very concerned. She had heard horrible things about Mexican jails. She knew her grandson would be able to pay her back once he was safely home. She called the court recorder, who instructed her on the process of paying the damages. She had her son drive her to the nearest Western Union Station but the machine was down. She then went to the another business that performs wire transfers.

Upon entering the store, she told the teller that she needed to send $1500.00 through Western Union. The teller asked her if she knew who she was sending the money to. She told the teller she did. The teller pressed her and asked her if she knew the individual personally. She said she did not know the specific individual who would be receiving the funds but that she did know her grandson, who was the one who called her.

The teller told her she would not complete the transaction. The woman was very upset and tried to convince the teller to send the money. The teller refused, eventually telling the woman that if she suspected fraud she legally could not send the money. The woman seemed intent on sending the money, so the teller told her she could try Rite Aid.

The woman left the store, bewildered. She was at a loss as to what to do. Her son drove her home, where she called her other son—her grandson’s father. She told him about the ordeal and asked him what he thought they should do. He asked her if she had tried to call the grandson at home. She told him that she hadn’t. He told her that he would call her grandson and hung up.

Moments later her phone rang. It was her grandson. He told her that he was at home in San Francisco and that he and his wife had just returned home from shopping. She was astounded. She was sure the man who had called was her grandson. He had SOUNDED like her grandson. He had used her grandson’s best friend’s name. His mannerisms and expressions were consistent with her grandson’s. She just couldn’t believe the man had been so adept at fooling her.

A short time later the man called back to verify that the funds had been sent. This time her son answered the phone. He told the man that he had quite a little scheme going on but that it hadn’t worked this time. The man responded that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. He added that there is always tomorrow. Before hanging up, the would be thief quipped, “Love ya.”

The woman and her son called the teller at the California Check Cashing Store and told her she had been right. They thanked her profusely for saving them from losing their money. The teller told the woman to tell everyone she knows about these scams. The woman told the right friend—the one who was the Editor of a newspaper.

The teller at the Check Cashing Store stated during an interview that this type of scam occurs twice a day on average. She said that calls are received by victims regarding lotteries, relatives in distress, and travel schemes-- even school loans. She stated that one person was taken for $8000.00. She went on to say that the store has a policy to call other Western Union stations and alert them if they feel a person is being scammed in order to prevent the transaction from being completed elsewhere.

The teller would not allow her picture to be taken and said that her name could not even be published. She added that the company does not allow employees to do so.

A similar incident recently occurred at the Post Office. A young couple had placed an ad on Craigslist to sell a $600.00 camera. A man had responded to the ad and requested that the couple send the camera to a foreign country. He said that if they sent the camera via certified mail they could get a confirmation number. He told them that he would call them back to get the confirmation number and then he would wire them the money.

When the tellers at the Post Office realized what the couple were planning to do, they advised them not to go through with the transaction. Fortunately, they were able to convince the couple not to send the camera. The tellers stated that they see this type of thing frequently.

Many businesses have fraud units set up.  Your local District Attorney's Office is also a resource for protection because a lot of them have fraud teams as well.  Stay alert & cautious as you conduct business or surf the net.  And be sure to watch out for your friends & relatives who may be at risk.


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