Lee German, a resident at The Kenwood by Senior Star, recently wrote about her experience with a phone scammer. Her opinion editorial, which was featured in The Cincinnati Enquirer, blazes a trail to civic engagement for Older Americans Month – as it serves to make a difference in the lives of community members by warning others about this common trap.
“Grandma, grandma — it’s me, Danny,” said the voice on the phone. “I’m in bad trouble. I need your help!”
“Where are you?” I asked.
“My friend Brian died,” he answered. “I’m in Chicago with some friends. We decided to come here so we could go to his funeral; we were all very good friends.”
“I don’t know about Brian,” I told Danny, “But why are you in trouble?”
He answered slowly, “After the funeral we went for a few drinks. We were all feeling so bad. You know how that goes. I guess I had more to drink but it didn’t feel that way ‘til I found myself and the car capsized into the other car in front of us. We got out and saw that the other car was badly damaged and the lady was streaming blood. We didn’t know what to do. The police car came and gave me a citation ticket because I was the driver. When they did a blood test they saw I was some percentage points above the alcohol allowance, and they said they were taking me to jail for driving drunk in a different state than my license called for. So Grandma, I’m in jail and I can’t get out without posting bond, and I don’t know what that means except that I’m in jail in Chicago and I’m scared.”
“Danny, did you call your Dad?” I asked.
“He’d kill me,” he said, “so I called you instead. Help me, please. It’s terrible here!”
I got my husband, Sandy, to come to the phone — he was in the midst of showering. “You’ve got to take the phone — Danny’s in a Chicago jail and can’t get out without posting bond.” I went back to the phone with Dan, who said he was only given a few minutes to talk. It was enough time for me to get the number of the police department and the attorney’s name and number before passing the phone to Sandy.
“Why are you calling us instead of your Dad?” Sandy asked.
“He’d kill me if he even knew I was here, and he’d never give me the money so my attorney could get me out of jail,” the voice on the phone said again. “Grandpa, you’ve got to help me.”
Sandy got the lawyer’s name and number also and said he’d call Danny back as soon as he’d found out more.
He called the lawyer — Paul Greene — who answered the phone quickly and told Sandy the same story that Danny had. “I can’t get him out without the requested bond money,” Greene said.
“That’s how much?” Sandy asked.
“$2,500 dollars, and that’s after I’ve struck a deal here,” Greene said. He gave Sandy a name and address in Chicago to send the money.
“Wait a minute,” Sandy said. “Danny lives in Portland, Oregon. We don’t even know what he’s doing in Chicago. Is this a scam?”
And as fast as he asked the question, the phone went silent.
The Cook County Jail had no record of Dan Samuels being held there, or a lawyer named Paul Greene.
Sandy called Danny’s cell phone and asked, “Where are you?”
Danny replied, “I’m at work… What’s wrong, Grandpa?”
Sandy told him the story, and Danny said, “Grandpa, I’ve never left Portland. I don’t know anyone named Brian, and I’ve never been in jail. That was a hoax…”
We were so relieved and I was glad Sandy knew a scam when he heard one. He had remembered someone attempting to pull a similar scam on us about five years ago, when someone had posed as our granddaughter in need of $5,000.
We knew we had to tell others to watch out. We did and were amazed at the number of grandparents who had lived through the same story. Unfortunately, the amounts given in these false emergency situations were enormous. One grandmother we found had transferred $10,000 someplace, another $5,000, and most of the people knew of similar stories of emergency situations that turned out to be scams.
The Blue Ash Police gave us the following advice for these situations: “Call the police, call the kids for further verification and stay cool.”