A Dawn-Euphemia woman says she may have lost $8,000 to scammers had the owner of a Petrolia courier company not stepped in.
Now she’s telling her story, hoping others won’t be fooled in by the very common grandparent scam.
The elderly woman, who doesn’t want to be named, got a call Thursday morning around 11 am from someone posing as a police officer. He said her grandson was in jail. He was in a car with friends and marijuana had been found in the back seat, so he’d been arrested. The ‘officer’ said the grandson had not done anything wrong, but he needed to talk to her. The man then turned the phone over to who the woman thought was her grandson.
“When this man came on the phone, he had a real heavy voice. And, and I said, ‘Oh, you sound like you have an awful cold.’ He had been to the doctor, but he was okay. He didn’t have COVID and he was he was okay..I thought that’s not my grandson’s voice, he’s got a fine voice. But I thought, well, he has got an awful cold.”
She asked him if he’d called his parents. He had not. “I want to do it myself and I just thought you could help me and then and then I will call them and let them know myself,” she says. Then her ‘grandson’ added “‘so just don’t you tell them.’ You know, it all made sense.'”
The woman’s grandson needed $8,000 and he promised he would repay it in a week.
“I thought, well, if it’s only for a week, then I’d get the money back next Thursday. Yeah. So I thought, well, I can give them the money. And what what am I going to lose?
“I’ll help him out. And my grandson is a very fine young man and I knew that he wasn’t involved in anything that he was being blamed for.”
So the Dawn-Euphemia went to her bank and took out the money. The teller asked her about the large sum. The elderly woman had been instructed to tell anyone who asked that the money was for home repairs. She isn’t a very good liar, she told The Independent, so it was convenient that her antenna had fallen on her roof and some shingles were off; it sounded plausible and she told the teller the story.
“I was at the point where you’re so worried about your grandson that you don’t know what you’re thinking,” she says.
She went home with the cash and packaged it as the ‘officer and grandson’ instructed; in an envelope, wrapped in magazine pages and put into a brown manila envelope. They otold her to send it to an address in Quebec. When she questioned why the money had to go there, the scammer told her, “A lot of these offices are closed (because of COVID-19) and so all their money from all over was was sent to Montreal.”
The pair wanted the elderly woman to drive it to FedEx in Sarnia. She told them she was an old woman and was not going to drive to Sarnia. So, the scammers asked her address and found a courier company to help out.
“The guy is going to come and pick it right up at your door,” the scammers told her. “So I thought, ‘Oh, this is great. I don’t have to even leave the house,'” she says.
The scammers told her, “don’t tell him anything when he gets there. Just give him the parcel. Just tell them to look after this. And to open up some money and take out $200 and give it to him for his services.”
Minutes later, Marty Souch of Shoreline Express was at her door pick up the parcel.
“He just kept saying I don’t feel right. There’s something wrong,” the woman recounted.
Souch says there was little details of the call for pickup that didn’t match what was going on.
“What made me suspicious is when the guy called me to come pick it up, he said it was legal documents. And when I got there, it wasn’t legal documents. So I says to her, ‘what is it you’re trying to do?'”
It took some time and patience but the woman finally told Souch “I’m trying to help a family member out. And that’s what started me asking questions.”
The woman confided her grandson was in trouble with the law. “Well, it’s drugs. He got caught for speeding, and I says you won’t go to jail for drugs, unless it’s a huge amount. You won’t go to jail if you get caught speeding, Something’s fishy here,” says Souch.
He convinced her to call her grandson who wasn’t in jail but was hanging out with his girlfriend. He confirmed he didn’t call. Before long, the woman’s family and the OPP arrived to help out.
The OPP rarely can track down phone scammers. Often people are taken in. Just last week, a couple in Plympton-Wyoming lost $25,000 in the same scam.
The Dawn-Euphemia woman decided to call The Independent after talking to her bank manager when returning the cash.
“The best thing for you to do is to tell people, don’t hide it, because, he said, you did everything you could do. And so he said, ‘be sure you tell people what happened so that they can be aware it is the elderly people that they’re after.'”
And she said, it is very easy to be take in.
“They had me all the way; there’s no doubt about it.”
And she advises seniors to do “what I know I should have done; turn right around and call my grandson.”