By Dorothy Dobbie
A dignified and well-known Winnipeg woman recently confessed with chagrin that she had been scammed by a very convincing telephone artist. He was so convincing, she said, that she never even questioned his request for money. We will call her Margaret.
It all began when the phone rang one day and the voice at the other ends said, with complete confidence and good cheer, “Hi! It’s your favourite grandson!”
“Which one?” answered Margaret with a little laugh.
“You know,” he answered. “It’s me! Listen, I’m in Mexico and I have got into a bit of trouble. I don’t want Mom to know, so please don’t tell anyone. I had an accident and they want cash before they will let me out of jail. My insurance won’t go through for a couple of days. Can you help me out? I need $1,500. ”
Margaret knew that one of her grandsons had been travelling, so the whole thing sounded plausible. Not only that, but from time to time the grand kids have each hit her up for money and she was always glad to help out.
She agreed to send the money and the caller told her that a local lawyer would be in touch with instructions. The “lawyer’ called (probably a higher-up guy in the scam crew) and said, “Don’t make a bank transfer. Send the money by money order via Western Union.” She followed his instructions and the money was sent. A day or two later, she got another call, this time with a story about how the “grandson” needed another influx of cash for a different reason. She sent that, too. A third call brought the total to $3,500 and just after she arranged to send it, she got a call from Western Union asking if she was sure who the recipient of these money orders was.
Already beginning to get a little wary, she called her daughter who said, “Oh, Mom . . .” Needless to say, the cat was out of the bag, Margaret learned that the grandson she thought she was saving was in Europe and not Mexico, and her $3,500 was gone forever.
Looking for a ‘live one’
Margaret did the right thing in telling others – even in telling me. She knows that I am writing this little piece to remind you (and your parents) to be on guard whenever anyone asks for money, even if you think you know them. And if they ask you to not tell anyone else, the alarm bells should be pounding in your ears.
How did the scammers know so much about Margaret and her family? They didn’t. They simply call and call and call until they find a “live” one. It’s like trolling for fish – you may miss thousands but finally one will get hooked and it’s fish dinner for the troller.
The scammer even got Margaret to tell him the name of her grandson and made her think that he told her that himself. They are very good at what they do.
By the way, Margaret’s grandchildren should be ashamed of themselves for asking her for money and thereby inadvertently setting her up for this scam.
As for Margaret – she’s a good-hearted woman, exactly the target the unscrupulous scammers were looking for.