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It’s one of the oldest scams in the book. A predator calls an older adult pretending to be their grandchild. They’ve been arrested and need money immediately or they are going to jail. The grandparent gets so confused and concerned; they will do anything, including forking over thousands of dollars.
Many of us see news reports about the scam and wonder how anyone could fall for this. I’ve had this discussion with my soon-to-be 90-year-old mother many times and she assured me that she would never fall for it.
Until she almost did.
She called me the other day and wanted to come over to talk.
“I got a call from Phillip (not his real name),” she said. “He’s in jail and needs money to get bailed out.”
“Ma,” I said, “How many times have we discussed this? It’s not Phillip. It’s a scam.”
I assured her none of her grandchildren would ever call her first, especially if they only had one phone call.
“I know it’s a scam, but it sounded just like him,” she said.
“Did he ask you to send him money,” I asked?
“No, he wanted me to talk to his lawyer, who would have all the details.”
“Another person called you, claiming to be his lawyer?” I asked.
“Of course not,” she said. “I called him.”
Okay, that’s it. I needed to hear this story from the beginning.
“Phillip called me from the hospital,” she said. “He had been drinking and was in a car accident that killed someone. He told me his sinuses were damaged, and that might be why he doesn’t sound like himself.”
Of course not.
“He couldn’t talk right now but would call me back after he came out of surgery,” she said. “But when he called me back, he was frightened and said to not call anyone about this, especially his father. I asked him how much money he needed, but he didn’t know. So, he told me to call his lawyer, Max Morgan, and gave me his number.”
“Mr. Morgan told me to send him $8,000 for bail or Phillip was going to go to jail for 90 days,” she said. “I told him I didn’t have that much cash in the house. He said I could send him a bank transfer or buy $8,000 worth of Amazon gift cards if I wanted. I don’t even know how to get an Amazon gift card.”
After all, most reputable bail bond agents accept Amazon gift cards.
“What did he say when you told him you didn’t have the money,” I asked?
“He told me to call him back when I had the money,” she said, “And he gave me Phillip’s case number: 1754938B.”
Well, isn’t that nice of him?
I took down all the information and called the Seventh Precinct in Nassau County. Although sympathetic, they don’t take on scam cases unless the mark (my mother) forks over the money. The “Monk” in me wanted to call Max Morgan back and see where that would take me. Instead, I just opened a case online with the FBI (usa.gov). They even gave me a case number: 135496554. I’m sure they will solve the case.
When my wife told her 94-year-old mother the story, she was surprised that my mother would fall for the scam. “Doesn’t she know to just hang up immediately when that happens?” she said.
Ah, the wisdom of the aged.
Then a few days later, my mother-in-law got a call from her grandson, who, coincidentally, was in the hospital after a bad car accident that killed someone. Instead of just hanging up, she had a long conversation with her grandson (who refused to give her his name) about what happened and what needed to be done. That is until she told him she didn’t have any money and didn’t even have a car.
Then he hung up.