Last Monday I got scammed. I write this because people are scammed all the time, and anyone, anywhere, could be next. My experience might preclude you being that one.
A few days ago, at about 9 a.m., I received a phone call from an, at the moment, unidentified person. He reported that his nose was broken and that he had sutures. After some back-and-forth I deduced that he was my grandson, that he had been in an accident, a lady had run a red light and impacted his vehicle, that he had been arrested on charge of reckless driving, and that he was in jail in a some-distant town. Throughout the conversation his voice was plaintive, subdued, sounding as though under duress, and was not familiar or consistent, but was plausible with a broken nose and trauma (clue #1). He reported that a person handling his case was Lance Marshall, case number I99271. Grandson said he was allowed only one phone call, and asked that I not tell anyone else (embarrassment, I assumed) (clue #2). Then the phone call was terminated.
A short time later I got a phone call from the reportedly Lance Marshall. He was very sympathetic and cooperative, and apparently an advocate for Grandson. He reported Grandson had been arrested for a blood alcohol of 0.87; the limit being 0.7. That is why Grandson was being held, pending investigation of the responsible person for the accident. But the investigation (including video) would take seven to 10 days. Meanwhile court would meet in two hours. If bail was not posted by court time, the court would not accept bail (clue #3) and Grandson would spend up to eight days in jail.
Marshall said bail was initially set at $15,000, which he acknowledged was excessively high. He said that (reportedly) he had confirmed Grandson’s clean record, and had negotiated bail down to $2,500. He gave me directions using WalMart’s “Ria Financial Services” system to transfer bail to
Elizabeth Sherman, Boston MA.
(Big clue, #4, why Boston? But I assumed the Nearby Town court was using a bail service in Boston.)
(Big clue #5, why sending bail to an individual, not a business entity? But I dismissed it, only thinking of and concern for Grandson.)
Big clue #6, ‘Elizabeth Sherman’s’ (Boston) phone number was the same as advocate “Lance Marshall’s” (western Nearby Town)—I completely missed that one.
I then submitted the bail money as instructed.
I then proceeded to Nearby Town to retrieve Grandson. After checking the county courthouse, the municipal court, and the jail, no record of Grandson was found. That is when I slowly, and quickly, realized I had been scammed. I was unable to stop the funds transfer from my bank to WalMart, as I had authorized it with my PIN. I was unable to stop the WalMart “Ria” transfer to “Elizabeth Sherman,” as the funds has already been picked up.
In retrospect, I learned a hard, expensive lesson. I should have begun to suspect scam as the clues accumulated. I should have called Grandson or his father or employer directly to ascertain his status. I should have recognized what I have read about this form of scam.
If you get “hit,” I hope you do better that I did. The scenario will not be the same. The traditional scheme is that an overseas (all the more difficult to ascertain his/her actual status) loved one is in dire straights and requires immediate monetary assistance. If you get “hit,” play along and get as much information as possible, short of actually parting with funds, and report immediately to the police. Don’t be too embarrassed to report, even if you get “taken.”
(Morgan County resident, name withheld to protect the acutely embarrassed)