Scammed!

A longtime Westporter — and avid “06880” reader — wants her story told.

“I’m not a stupid person,” she says. But when she got a phone call saying her grandson had been arrested for possession of drugs — and the caller used the teenager’s first name — she panicked.

“I knew the man on the phone was saying strange things,” she says. “He said my grandson had one phone call that would keep him from going to jail — well, why wouldn’t he call his mom or dad? I asked for a number to call back, but he wouldn’t tell me.

“I should have hung up. But I couldn’t stop myself from talking to him.”

The man gave her several tasks to do — one at a time.

The first was to get $12,500 in cash. If the bank asked why, she was told to say she was having construction work done; the contractor did not want a check.

The woman went to the bank she always uses. “I could tell the woman there was trying to help me,” she says. “But like a good girl, I recited the contractor story.”

On the next call, the man told her to put the bills inside a magazine. He gave her the nearest UPS store — the one opposite Fresh Market — and told her to mail it to an address in Miami. It must arrive before 10:30 the next morning, and be marked “Drop at door. No signature required.”

All along, the woman wanted to call her son. Finally, she did. She learned — as she’d always suspected — that her grandson was fine.

Her son found a fraud number for UPS. By this time it was night. The woman planned to call first thing in the morning.

Unable to sleep at 1 a.m., she realized it might be a 24-hour hotline. Soon, she was speaking with a helpful woman. The mail would be intercepted before delivery.

That morning, the scammer called again. He asked for the tracking number. The woman hung up.

UPS did stop delivery. The $12,500 was returned.

Despite her embarrassment, the woman called the Westport Police Department. “A very nice officer took copious notes,” she says.

She knows the man in Miami will not be found — this time. But the officer told her he often goes to the Senior Center, warning people of scams like this. “He praised my son and me for how we handled this,” she says.

This is not the first time a Westporter has almost fallen victim. An older woman I know well was told a similar story about her grandson’s arrest. Her instructions were money wire it via Western Union at Stop & Shop.

Fortunately, the clerk behind the counter was suspicious, and asked the woman to call her grandson. She was relieved to hear his voice. Sheepishly, she explained she had almost sent money to a scammer.

“I’m not a stupid person,” the woman with the UPS story says again. “But I did a stupid thing. I don’t want anyone else to do the same.”

15 responses to “Scammed!

  1. Stupid? Perhaps not. But surly unschooled in the wave of scam calls about grandsons which are legion, and never on the up and up.

  2. Seth Goltzer

    This is called the Grandmother scam and has been going on for a long time. My Mother has been called twice. Usually they want you to send a Moneygram to a Wal Mart.
    A good reason to bring back public hanging…..

  3. Stephanie Mastocciolo

    This exact scam happened to my elderly great aunt in NYC!! She also withdrew the money and asked her brother to take her to send it. Her brother thankfully realized it was a scam and did not send. Beware out there!!

  4. Arline Gertzoff

    This scam is old .I did one better as it happened on car phone.No worries I have hands free device.I told scammer to call back as I was parking give me five min.I was in town and by the time he called back with instructions the phone was in the hands of the Westport Police.
    A newer one is that I cloud on your phone has been compromised. Microsoft IRS Apple etc do not call people Just hang up.Even charities your standard reply if you answer at all should be I do not do business over the phone

  5. David Wunsch

    This reminds me of the time I received a call on a very noisy line. The caller claimed to be my nephew, J. He was in jail and needed money . He then began a description of what had happened to him last night : “Me and my friends went out drinking…” My grammar police nailed the caller –I hung up in a millisecond.
    ADW Staples 1956

  6. Bob Weingarten

    My wife got a similar call. The caller said “hi grandma and I’m in trouble and need money”. My wife, who is never called grandma by any of our grandchildren, immediately said angrily “you are not my grandson and I am not your grandma” and hung up. After hanging up she tried to call the number but nobody answered. She believed the number was from Westport.

  7. At least 95% of the calls on our home line are solicitors or calls with no one there at all. We don’t answer our phone anymore but check our voicemail frequently. We thought we were the ‘only ones’ until recently when I realized that every time I mention it to someone, they agree, “Yeah, I don ‘t pick it up at all anymore…”
    My husband got the ‘iCloud’ call just yesterday. He promptly hung up but sometimes he’ll make up a ridiculous voice and egg them on a bit ‘for entertainment,’ as he puts it. “That’s not the answer, either” I tell him, but he just smiles having had a good time of it…
    I remember when we’d actually hang around ‘WAITING for that call’ and the phone to ring…

    • “Hi! This is Robin from member services!” Of all the obnoxious calls, that’s the one I hate the most. And now they’re calling cell numbers too.

  8. Cathy Barnett

    Also beware of the Social Security phone scam! I got a robot call at 8am on a Sat from someone from SS saying my monthly payment had been jeopardized and to call back, enter SSN and I would be connected to SS agent. CLICK I hung up immediately. Social Security does not make robo calls.

  9. Elaine Marino

    Western Union (WU() is making (partial) restitution to victims of family member scams who made wire transfers through WU between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017.

    Here is the link to the application website: http://westernunionremission.com/

    The application deadline is May 31, 2018.

  10. Mary Cookman Schmerker Staples '58

    Thank you for putting this “out there” and thank you to the person who shared with you. I am pleased that her outcome was positive. We are among those who do not answer the phone until we know who is calling.
    Even with charities that we donate to we do not make any commitments over the phone.

  11. I’ve also heard of undocumented people in our area receiving scam phone calls threatening to report them unless they send cash. The people are terrified and have no one to seek advice from. These scammers are the lowest of the low.

  12. This happened to my aunt (at 85) a few years ago when she was told her son was in prison in Mexico. He travels all the time, so she didn’t immediately dismiss this. Luckily a woman at her bank caught it (a Western Union payment), and her money was returned. We wondered how they knew so much about her (her son’s name, her unlisted phone number, where she lived, and her granddaughter’s name). After some investigation, the finding was that these people were using Facebook posts. Looking for a grandma who lives alone and has kids and grandkids (and money). We changed her landline number and she no longer answers the phone unless she knows who’s calling from caller ID. We also bought her a very simple cell phone for emergencies. So sad! Be careful out there!