There seems to be a proliferation of scam calls, many of which we’ve been warned about before. The scammers have become so sophisticated, however, that even smart people can fall into their carefully laid-out traps. Here’s a story about what happened to a friend this week who, though embarrassed about having been the victim, wanted others to know the details and who hopefully will not fall prey to a similar situation.
My friend received a call from “his nephew” who asked if his “favorite” uncle would help him out. The story went like this: Said nephew was having marital troubles, stopped at a bar to have a drink, decided to spend the night with a friend, came across a road block, his alcohol level was a bit over the legal limit and he was now in jail…a horrible jail….where he did not want to spend another minute.
According to the nephew, bail was set at $1,800.50 and the court wouldn’t take a check or credit card to pay the fine. He didn’t want my friend to call his dad (my friend’s brother) because he didn’t want them to know about his marriage being somewhat rocky.
My friend was asked to have a Moneygram transfer to a local drug store where his attorney could pick up the check and pay his fine. And, oh yes, it had to be done before 2:00 p.m. Pacific time because the court closes at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time. When he had completed the transaction, he was to call an 800 number, dial a certain extension, and give the Moneygram confirmation number to the “attorney.”
The number was an 800 number that answered via answering machine, “County Court’s Office.” When he dialed the extension, a woman who said she was the nephew’s attorney took the confirmation number and said, “He can make two calls and the second call will be to you to let you know he’s been bailed out.” Of course that never happened.
In retrospect, he says he could have done a few things differently, like think with his head, not his generous heart.
Any one of us can be emotionally triggered when a family member or dear friend is in trouble, and this is what these scammers prey upon. Unfortunately, it works a lot of the time, especially when something is as well planned out as this was.
Think about it. Anyone can get an 800 number and put whatever message they want on it. Moneygrams require cash payments and you’re given a confirmation number so that it can be picked up anywhere there’s a Moneygram facility.
The scary part is that the scammers seemed to know something about my friend’s family; i.e., nephew’s name, that he was recently wed, that his father and my friend were brothers. Since he doesn’t take part in social media, they had to get the information somewhere and that part remains a mystery.
Speaking of scams, here’s one more that surprised me. I’ve recently received many calls, some political and many “out of area” calls. One number I looked up by area code was from Costa Rica. Another one was from Washington. Out of curiosity I called that number and the immediate answering machine said, “Please enter your ‘do not call’ numbers.” I didn’t but looked up the correct number for that service. What I found surprised me. Take a look here. https://www.donotcall.gov/
Some final word of caution:
- Don’t send money to anyone you don’t know. That includes calls that say your son, mother, daughter has been in an accident, is in jail, or anyone who promises you riches being held for you if you only send them money so it can be released.
- Be careful about giving personal information to strangers, to workers who are repairing your home, garden or car.
- Do not give your Social Security number to anyone who calls you to “verify” any of your accounts.
- Check everything out, including promises of mortgage loans at a low cost, quick loans of any kind and “out of area” calls.
- Always review your checking account, bank statements and especially credit card statements.
- Call your bank or credit card number immediately if you find charges you don’t understand.
- Report fraud to police department. Many scams are not reported because of embarrassed victims.
For more information, here’s the consumer affairs website for you to check out.