88-Year-Old Woman Loses $20,000 in 'Grandson Scam'
Woman made numerous overseas wire transfers from different banks to help out 'grandson' she believed was in jail.
It's every person's worst nightmare - your grandson calls you up asking for money because he's in jail. Like any loving relative, you help out and send him the money. But then you get another phone call. Now he needs money for attorney fees, and other legal costs.
Finally - after shelling out thousands of dollars - someone points out that it's all a scam.
That’s just what happened to an 88-year-old woman who was duped of more than $20,000. And it could have been even more had a banker at the Fox Point branch of M&I Bank not alerted her that she was likely a victim of “the grandson scam” - a ploy that has targeted the elderly across the country.
According to Fox Point police:
The Brown Deer woman had gone into the bank Wednesday, attempting to make a withdrawal on a $9,000 certificate of deposit and wire transfer that money overseas. The banker helping the woman thought the transaction seemed suspicious, and contacted Fox Point police.
After officers spoke with the woman, she eventually acknowledged she had been withdrawing money to pay for attorney and bond fees for her grandson, whom she said had gotten in trouble with the law. She said she had sent numerous payments through Western Union during the last couple of days, and insisted that it was not a scam and she needed to help out her grandson.
Officers contacted the woman’s grandson, who said he had not been arrested and he had been at work the last two days. Then the rest of the story unraveled into a lengthy and costly thread of wire transfers.
The woman told officers that on Sept. 26 she received a phone call from a person she believed to be her grandson. The man told her he had been arrested on a drug charge and that he was currently in jail.
He then turned over the phone to another man, who identified himself as a Milwaukee police officer. He told her that he could assist her grandson with bail if she sent $2,400 through Western Union. She agreed to send the money and the officer provided the Western Union location for her to use. She said she withdrew money from her money market account and sent it as she was told by the officer.
After that transaction was complete, she received another call from the same "officer," who said he needed more money for attorney fees and other expenses. The money was always sent to Barcelona, Spain. She said the officer told her not to talk to anyone about this if she wanted to help her grandson.
She made three separate transfers of $2,400 each on Sept. 26. The following day, she made another four transfers of $2,400 or less each; and on Sept. 28, there was yet another $2,400 transfer - the final one before the bank alerted her to the scam.
Over the three days, the payments totaled $19,074, with another $1,008 spent on Western Union fees.
The money, while always sent to Spain, was sent to four different people during the eight transactions.
Family members of the victim came to the bank and accompanied her home.
The Brown Deer woman is not alone in falling for the "grandson scam."
On Sept. 29 in Searsport, ME, an elderly woman got a phone call telling her that her grandson was in legal trouble and needed money to be released, according to the Republican Journal.
And in Hernando, FL., two couples were targeted by the same ploy in the past week, reports The St. Petersburg Times.
One of the Florida couples was taken for nearly $4,000. The other Florida couple was lucky enough that a Western Union employee caught on and began questioning the transaction, pointing out the red flags of fraud.
In the last month alone, similar elderly victims have also been scammed in New Jersey, Iowa, Deleware, Florida, Illinois, California, Michigan and Washington.
The Better Business Bureau recommends that anyone receiving a request for a wire transfer from a relative should call other family members to make sure the request is legitimate. The BBB also says requests for money to be sent overseas through companies like Western Union or Moneygram are red flags that the request could be a scam.
If you have been victimized by the “grandson scam,” please contact your local police department.