Grand­mother scammed over phone for $2,100

Scam­mers called, said her grand­son was in jail and needed help

The Signal - - FRONT PAGE - By Jim Holt Sig­nal Se­nior Staff Writer

When 85-year-old Marie picked up the phone it was her grand­son Jake in some kind of trou­ble and he needed her help. Or, so she be­lieved. The peo­ple who phoned the Santa Clarita Val­ley grand­mother — ly­ing, schem­ing ex­tor­tion­ists who prey on the good na­ture of big-hearted old peo­ple — de­manded $2,100 for Jake’s re­lease from a jail in New York City.

And, wor­ried for the wel­fare of her grand­son, Marie raced to the near­est Western Union and wired the money needed. She even paid the $42 trans­ac­tion fee.

It wasn’t un­til later — when a de­mand for more money was made — that she sus­pected a scam.

“It turned out it wasn’t Jake,” she told The Sig­nal at the end of her story. “It was the fake Jake.”

The call­ers told her “Jake” didn’t want his father — Marie’s son — to know about the mess he was in.

The “fake Jake” sounded just like the real Jake, Marie said Wed­nes­day.

“I picked up the phone and the man said ‘Grandma, this is Jake.’ And he sounded like my

grand­son,” she said.

“I told him ‘What do you need?’” and he said “I’ll let you speak to my at­tor­ney, David Thomp­son” and this man said “In or­der to get Jake re­leased, you have to send a check right away for $2,100.”

The fake at­tor­ney got back on the line and told the grand­mother, “I need it right away.”

Then he di­rected to a place where she could ex­e­cute the trans­ac­tion.

“Go to the Western Union and you can go to the one in Wal­greens on the cor­ner,” she said he told her.

“He knew ex­actly where I was,” Marie said.

When Marie an­swered her phone the sec­ond time, she told “David Thomp­son” the money had been paid and asked to speak to Jake.

In­stead, the caller she pay an $9,000 “com­pli­ca­tions.”

“The man said ‘I just got news that Jake hit this woman’s car from the back and she was preg­nant. Well, she lost the baby. I want $9,000.’

“I told him I don’t have $9,000. I can give you $4,000 but not nine. He said “Fine, I’ll ac­cept $4,000 for bail.” de­manded ad­di­tional for

The ex­tor­tion­ists let Marie speak to the “fake Jake.”

“And he (fake Jake) said ‘I don’t want my mother and father to know. When I get home I’ll pay you back.’ I fig­ured every­thing will be OK.

“Then I said ‘But, Jake, you don’t drink. And, why are you in New York? You’re sup­posed to be at work?’” Marie said.

The “fake Jake” said he had a rea­son for be­ing in New York; it in­volved a long elab­o­rate story.

More money

Marie started mak­ing ar­range­ment to have $4,000 trans­ferred from her bank ac­count to an ac­count num­ber given to her by the caller.

But then she thought it would best to check with Jake’s mother first.

That’s when she called Jake’s mother - the real mother of the real Jake, Marie’s daugh­ter-in-law.

The daugh­ter-in-law to­gether with Marie’s son, Jake’s father - raced over to see Marie in per­son.

“But, when I saw my grand­son walk in with them, I said ‘What are you do­ing here? You’re sup­posed to be in New York?’”

That’s when Marie called the Santa Clarita Val­ley Sher­iff’s Sta­tion, she said.

“They said ‘I can’t do any­thing for you?” Marie said, re­fer­ring to the re­spond­ing deputies.

Marie told The Sig­nal she was con­fi­dent the deputies could track the cul­prits through the bank ac­count num­ber she was given.

Of­fi­cials at the SCV Sher­iff’s Sta­tion didn’t re­spond specif­i­cally to this case, but said they rou­tinely is­sue bul­letins alert­ing se­nior cit­i­zens about “phone scam­mers.”

In one of their more re­cent bul­letins posted on so­cial me­dia, they warn: “phone scam­mers say any­thing to get money, a num­ber of SCV se­nior cit­i­zens have been tar­geted.”

The bulletin reads: “The scam­mer will seem friendly, maybe use your first name, and then claim to have in­for­ma­tion about a fam­ily mem­ber. These scams gen­er­ally tar­get the el­derly pop­u­la­tion. The scam­mer may even pro­vide the name and birth­date of a grand­child; us­ing this in­for­ma­tion to feign cred­i­bil­ity.

The SCV Sher­iff’s Sta­tion re­ported tak­ing re­ports from vic­tims scammed any­where from one to two thou­sand dol­lars.

“Last Fri­day, there was a woman that walked into our Sher­iff’s Sta­tion front lobby and she was ac­tu­ally on her cell phone with ‘a scam­mer’ as she ap­proached our Counter Deputy Greg Hutt,” Shirley Miller, spokes­woman for the SCV Sher­iff’s Sta­tion said Thurs­day.

“The caller on the other end iden­ti­fied them­selves as be­ing with the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion and said that she had a war­rant out for her ar­rest and she needed to pay them via gift cards or they would come pick her up and take her to jail.

“She told the caller that she was in the Sher­iff’s Sta­tion so why would they need to come pick her up,” Miller said.

“They still didn’t hang up at the point, but in­stead told her to leave the Sher­iff’s Sta­tion be­cause they would need to be the ones to pick her up. When the woman fur­ther ques­tioned the caller, the caller hung up on her.”

Miller noted there “are still IRS scam calls” be­ing re­ported too.”

“The big­gest mes­sage to get out to the public is that it’s a huge red flag if any­one asks you to make pay­ment with gift cards,” she said. ” Le­git­i­mate agen­cies would never do that.”

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