I read a report this week that a woman received a call from a man who said he was her grandson. She didn’t know which one so she listed the names. He stopped her at Bryan. He told her that he was arrested in Madrid, Spain, in connection with a drug charge. He needed her to send him bail for the charge.
He told her he was going to testify against the real bad guy but needed to be out of jail in order to help. Another man got on the phone and said that he was a member of the U.S. Consulate’s Office. Still another man got on the phone and said he was an attorney.
All three convinced the woman to send two payments — one for $3,400 and a second for $1,500, plus more than $200 in transfer fees — to a Western Union address.
The woman later became suspicious and then called her grandson Bryan’s mom. She learned he was in college, safe and sound, in Texas.
She’d been duped.
Now you read this and say “How the heck does someone just take the word of someone on the phone and just send money out the window?”
It happens every day.
The old pigeon-drop scams were based on a good sales pitch, delivered to the right victim. The victim had to be elderly and female. Pigeon-drop scams are old bait-and-switch scams involving found money. They still show up from time to time, but more often, scammers now use the Internet.
One scam that floats from time to time is the “hit man” scam. The scammer makes a cold call — or sends an e-mail or text — to the victim saying he was hired to kill the victim. But he’s had a moment of clear, or at least semi-clear, conscious and has decided not to kill the victim — for the right price. They offer to call off the hit in exchange for a few thousand dollars. I’ve never seen someone pay on this one but I’m sure someone, somewhere, had been worried enough about a hit and paid the scammer to call it off.
The bottom line on scams is victim cooperation. You have to play or it won’t work.
Some scams, like the pigeon-drop, are based on the premise the victim will get greedy enough to want in on the thousands, or perhaps millions, of dollars in found money –and will put up “good faith” money to secure his or her reservation for the millionaire club. That money of course, doesn’t exist — except for the money the victim hands over to the scammers, not to be seen again.
Without cooperation from the victim, the scam can’t work.
So, people of the world, including my friends in Clarksville, GA., in lieu of all these scammers preying on our good intentions and, quite frankly, some of our greedy ones, too, the word of the month is this: “Verify.”
That’s right, America. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid of the awkwardness of asking questions. Scammers won’t hold up to it. They can’t. They don’t have the information to respond.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t help the poor woman who sent more than $5,000 to some low-life bottom-feeder who’s now probably spending her retirement funds.
The call to Bryan’s mom should have most certainly come before money is sent out. We all know that, but there’s a reason they pick seniors to scam. They’re honest and want to help. Many seniors respond because they care. Her grandson was in trouble and she wanted to help. She took the information on face value — until she had time to think about it. So the second, third and fourth words of the month are: “Take your time.”
Verify the information and take your time doing it. Also take some time and speak with your senior relatives and make sure they know these crooks exist. And, although they may sound sweet, desperate or coming across as a family member, remember: The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask — except for my Uncle Dewey who, every time he eats a hamburger, always asks: “How come it’s called a hamburger when it’s not ham?” (This is followed by a couple of “yuk-yuks” from him because everyone else knows the line already and is way over the small bit of humor that it once held.)
That is a dumb question.