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.”