BY LINDA BENTLEY | AUGUST 15, 2012
Granny scammers have come to town
Cave Creek couple bilked out of $2,500
CAVE CREEK – Grandparents will often do anything to help their grandchildren and that’s exactly what a group of scammers have been relying upon as they’ve set their sights on the Cave Creek area.
Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has recently received two reports of scammers contacting people, whose identities will remain protected, in Cave Creek, one of which resulted in a couple in their 70s being swindled out of $2,500, while another 89-year-old man was able to thwart the caller’s efforts to bilk him out of more than $1,700.
A couple of years ago, a Terravita couple received the same kind of call and almost wired $5,000 to their “grandson” in Canada until they made a phone call that confirmed he was, in fact, attending college classes in Texas.
Here’s how the scam works. The scammer makes random calls to numbers in affluent areas and when the phone is answered, the caller says “Hi, grandma” or grandpa, depending on whether a man or woman answers the phone.
The person receiving the call says something to the effect of, “John, is that you?”
The scammer replies, “Yes, grandma.”
The caller then goes on to say, as in the case of the Cave Creek couple, he had been arrested in Mexico and had only one phone call available and that an attorney from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City would call them back with more information. He also asked that they not alert the rest of the family because he did not want to “get in trouble.”
A short while later they received a second call from an individual who identified himself as Attorney Kevin Richard from the U.S. Embassy.
Richard stated he’d been assigned to their grandson’s case and urgently needed $2,500 for legal expenses. He asked them to send a MoneyGram to Mexico City with his name as the receiver.
He also warned them not alert U.S. authorities because an international money wire to Mexico could raise suspicion of “money laundering.”
Although confused about the situation, the couple was more concerned about their grandson and did not make any attempt to verify any of the information stated by the caller.
The wife immediately drove to the Basha’s store in Carefree and sent the $2,500 MoneyGram transfer as instructed.
A short while later, they received another call from Richard informing them the transfer did not go through. He asked them to make another transfer, this time using Western Union and write Joanna Morales Lomeli as the receiver.
This time the husband drove to the Cave Creek Walmart store, which has a Western Union agency, and made the $2,500 transfer as instructed.
When he returned home, the couple decided to call their grandson, who was in the Navy and stationed in Hawaii.
When their grandson answered the phone, he informed them they had become victims of a phone scam.
The husband immediately went to Basha’s and was able to stop the MoneyGram transfer.
Unfortunately, he was unable to stop the second $2,500 transfer made through Western Union.
The 89-year-old Cave Creek resident received a similar type call from someone who established himself as his grandson “Danny.”
Danny said he was embarrassed to call but he’d been in a car accident and needed to have $1,700 plus $120 to process the transaction wired to him.
Danny told him to wire the money from Fry’s Grocery Store on Carefree Highway and 48th Street.
The grandfather told Danny he would wire the money right away.
However, after hanging up the phone, the grandfather called his daughter, who told him his grandson Danny was right there at home.
Two hours later, the scammer who was impersonating his grandson called back to find out if he had wired the money yet.
The 89-year-old told the caller he was wise to his scam and not to call again.
While this Cave Creek resident didn’t lose any money, he filed a report with MCSO to report the incident in the hopes others do not fall prey to this type of scam.
The MCSO deputy responding to the complaint met with the assistant store manager at Fry’s to advise her of the scam. She said she would have a meeting with store managers and the person certified to do wire transfers about scammers working the area.
She said store employees will contact law enforcement if an elderly person comes to the store to send wire transfers to another country.