by Neena Strichart
For the last two weeks I have written about telephone scams recently perpetrated on friends of mine. Since running those two column entries, we have received numerous calls from readers wanting to share their own stories or asking advice on how to handle scammy-type situations. Although, while writing the columns, I figured I’d be happy if we could help just one person avoid being conned, it looks as though we hit the jackpot. It appears that those stories we ran really got the attention of a lot of people. Heck, when having dinner with Mom at Bixby Knolls Towers a few days ago, two of our seat mates told us of ladies in that building who were personally familiar with the “Hello, Grandma” scheme that I wrote about last week.
One of our readers even sent us information about her own experience with a “female” telephone scammer (not sure of the gender of the telephone scammer, but the caller pretended to be the woman’s granddaughter). Because she didn’t want her name shared in print, I told her that instead of running her email as a letter to the editor, I would include it in my next column. She was pleased that I figured out a way to tell her story without revealing her identity. By the way, she is in her 90s– and no, it is not my mother! Enjoy the read…
My story is just a bit different because it involved my granddaughter, who lived close to the Canadian border and had recently told me she wanted to go there for a day. The call came from Canada, supposedly, and the story was exactly the same with the car accident and the jail time, etc. [that you wrote about last week] so I thought, well she skipped her job and is in trouble in Canada. I was skeptical, but because I wasn’t positive I did try to call her at home to see if she was there. Nobody answered my call, so I was troubled for sure. Anyhow, I was getting dressed and hurrying out of the door with one shoe on and one off when I stopped and decided to call my son and tell him what happened and listen to what he advised me to do.
Son: Did you call her?
Me: Yes, but she wasn’t at home.
Son: Did you call her at work?
Me: No, I didn’t do that.
Son: Well, stay on the phone, and I’ll call her, and you can hear if she is there or not.
Guess who answered on the first ring. Yes, [my granddaughter] was at work, and the rest is history.
Con: No, Grandma, I didn’t get it.
Me: Okay. I’ll run back to the store and find out what happened.
(Readers, please remember, I never left my home or sent a dime to the con person.) The phone rang about an hour later.
Con: It still isn’t there, Grandma!
Me: Well, try again, because I sent it.
Another half hour goes by. The phone rings again.
Con: Grandma, it wasn’t there, and I’m desperate!
Me: Well, I don’t know what to do. I sent it, and I can’t afford to send any more money.
Con: They are going to keep me in jail until I get some money to pay for the accident.
Me: Well, I haven’t any more money to send you, so I can’t do any more. Check with the place again and see if it turned up.
Half hour passes.
Con: Grandma, it didn’t come.
Me: Well, I can’t help it. I sent it like you requested.
After I hung up that last time, my phone rang and rang about five more times, and I just let it ring. That was some of the most fun I have had in years.
One more thing that might help someone caught up in this scam– if they ask you to look at the receipt you received when you sent the money (they have all the answers), become manic, as I did, and say, Oh my goodness, I remember receiving it but I must have lost it when I was trying to get home as quickly as possible to answer the phone when you called me to find out if I sent it. I’ll go back to the place and see if they can tell me anything or give me a copy of the receipt.
That’s when the phone call got really interesting. When the call came, I made her sweat for sure when I screamed into the phone that I couldn’t send any more money because I didn’t have any more to send.
Me: Have the police go back with you to check and see if it came in. I’ve given you all I had.
I slammed down the phone that time and never answered it again, even though it rang many times.
What fun retribution is!
I forgot to tell you one more very important thing to tell your readers: never, never [give out] a family member’s real name. If the person says, “Grandma, I’m in trouble in Canada,” tell Grandma to say: Is this you “George” or “Fanny” or any fake name. If the caller continues, play it cool:
Me: Oh, my goodness, George. How did it happen?
Con: I blacked out and had an accident, and I’m in jail and need $2,500 as soon as possible.
Me: Oh. Of course. I’ll go right now. Give me that address again where I must send the money. Or, if Grandma is not in the mood [to egg on the caller], just say “Call your mother. I’m not sending you a dime.” Then hang up.