One member writes about her recent experience

Have you ever said to yourself: “I’m not as smart as I thought I was.”

You may have seen in the media in the last few days a story about an Oregon couple who lost $123,000 from the sale of their house when their title company was hacked. We here at the So. Salem Senior Center have our own story. Not of being hacked, but of a member actually falling for a scam and losing money. Hacking and scamming are done by the same people, the FBI says, and mostly from the same oversea sites.

Our member has asked to tell her story to everyone so they can learn from her mistake, but she would rather not share her name. We assure you she is an active volunteer, intelligent, highly educated, and tech savvy, but they got her money.

This is her story

I’m going to make a couple requests to readers. I am still sensitive about what I experienced and I ask not to be reminded of what I should or shouldn’t have done. As for advice, none is necessary because this experience made me an expert on the subject. This is an abbreviated summary of the events but I want to get your attention.

My grandson Sam, who is not a youngster, recently went to Reno to help an elderly friend get his home winterized.

On Friday while Sam was gone, I received a phone call from someone whose voice sounded like Sam. He started out by telling me he had been injured in a bad car accident in Reno, and he had been injured, taken to a hospital and patched up, then taken to jail, and would I please send bail money. Sam asked for secrecy be-cause if word got out, it could jeopardize his future. I thought this strange but since he asked, I promised to keep quiet. He said they gave him a short time to make the call, so he couldn’t answer many of my questions.

He gave me the name and number of a public defender as-signed to him and asked that I call the man who would tell me about his charges, and how to send bail money. This man told me that Sam sustained facial injuries; a broken nose and some cuts on his face required stitches. After being treated, Sam was taken to jail. Supposedly Sam had run into a car driven by a woman, and subsequently was charged with DUI and reckless endangerment.

This ‘attorney’ told me how much the bail was, and how to get to the bonding agency. With the bail received, Sam would be released at noon Saturday, and my money returned to me. Supposedly surveillance cameras had been found that proved he was not at fault so a judge dropped the charges. Saturday morning I received another call form the ‘attorney’ stating there was a new development. The woman in the other car had been 7 months pregnant, she gave birth, and the baby died. She planned to sue Sam for a large sum of money.

The next release time was to be 8 a.m. Monday since nothing happens on a Sunday. However, there was good news. The judge reviewed the case and prevented the lawsuit since the accident wasn’t Sam’s fault. I would be getting a call from Sam Monday to tell me when he would be free and could come home. They could then start the procedure for returning my money.

I waited all Monday morning for the call which didn’t come. Early afternoon I started calling the ’attorney’s’ number and calls wouldn’t go through. This was the scariest and most stressful four days I’ve ever had and I was afraid to share the information with anyone because of Sam’s warnings. Finally, after dark on Monday, I was getting suspicious and panicked. I dialed Sam’s cell phone. He answered right away. I asked, “Where are you?”

He said, “I’m home (in Oregon).”

I said, “Did you have a car accident in Reno?”

“No,” Sam said.

Did you have an injury: no. Did you get a DUI: no.

Then reality hit me hard: I HAD BEEN SCAMMED! The red flags were in every call but I kept telling myself that I had talked to Sam and was sure he wouldn’t lie to me. Well, he didn’t. I didn’t even talk to him. These guys are really good and they know that grandparents will go to almost any length to keep their grandchildren safe.

Research shows that grandparent scamming is a BIG OPERATION. Be careful if you get a call like this. I always thought I was smart enough to detect a scam but those guys know how to tug at the heartstrings of grandparents. It is likely they got Sam’s information from social media, so warn everyone you talk to: do not post anything at all about planned trips and be cautious who you discuss those plans with. If they have a name, they can find your life history online; who your relatives are, contact information, etc.

I have felt every emotion in the book regarding this experience. Fear, disgust, vulnerability, sadness, humiliation, embarrassment, anger, agitation, sleeplessness, violated, etc. I regret losing the money (and it is lost) but that doesn’t bother me as much as the emotions I’ve just mentioned. The red flags were up but I was blind to them. It was the most stressful days I can remember because I was alone in this, not knowing what to do with the information I had. I had promised to keep silent and I did.

Just remember, we are not always as smart/tuned in, as we think we are.

One last suggestion: If something similar happens to you, be sure to report it to the authorities. It may not help you get compensation, but with all the info they collect combined, there may be some clues that will help get the creeps!

Protecting Yourself Against This Scam

AARP reports that this scam is highly sophisticated, and mostly comes from out of state. People in the US were robbed of $3 billion last year by this type scam because 65+ people are more gullible, and grandparents are emotionally involved when it involves grandchildren. AARP says NEVER wire money! Here are some tips to help protect yourself:

  • Report scams to AARP online or by calling 800-646-2283. Also be sure to report them to the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov or 877-382-4357).
  • Always ask the ’grandchild’ a security question no one else can answer, or tell them you will call them right back. Either question will test validity of the person.

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