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Scam Alert! Stealing from Gramma Ursula
Here's the Characters in this Sordid Tale
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Bruce: picks up phone and dials Grandma Ursula (only, as you may have guessed, she is not his actual grandmother.)
Grandma Ursula: answers. “Hello?”
B: Grandma! Thank God I reached you. This is Nathan.
GU: Nathan. How’re you? Are you just checking in on your poor old grandma?
B: Oh. I wish this was a social call, but, well, I’ll be blunt. I’m in a pickle.
GU: Oh dear. What have you done this time?
B: (laughs) Oh, I haven’t done anything. But, I need your help. I’m stranded in Spain. I got robbed and I lost all my money and luggage. I need you to wire some money to the Spanish Embassy so they can wire me the money and I can get home. It’ll probably be a couple of thousand dollars.
GU: Spain? When did you go to Spain…. Your mother didn’t say anything.
B: Oh, I went here for school.
GU: Come to think of it, you don’t sound a lot like Nathan.
B: That’s ‘cause it’s a bad connection. Of course I’m Nathan. Who else would it be? I’m Nathan. I’m 23. I was born on November 17th, 1988. I have your blue eyes, gramma. I’m majoring in anthropology. I spent last Fourth of July with you at your beach house. I’m the youngest of your grandkids. Most importantly, I’m stuck in Spain and need your help.
GU: This doesn’t sound right. I’m gonna need to think about it. Call me back later. (Before Bruce can object, gramma hangs up the phone. She’s crying because she’s confused and scared. She calls Nathan, who doesn’t answer, only adding to her panic. She leaves him a message and then calls Nathan’s mother, but she’s at work, so this is an equally futile venture. Ditto Nathan’s dad. Ditto the result. Finally, she calls the police and tells them what happened. She’s not sure any crime has been committed but she’s hopeful the police might have some insight into this situation.)
B: (Meanwhile, he dials the next number on his list. He has about twenty folks to call today and he’s expecting one to bite. Any more than one would be gravy. He’s not lazy or evil. He’s a victim of the recession. He’s an out of work father of three and he needs to feed his family. He doesn’t feel good about his current line of work, but he also doesn’t feel good getting evicted from his apartment or watching his kids get sick and complain of hunger. With a sigh, he calls the next name on his list.)
Meanwhile, back at gramma’s house….
Gramma Ursula is by informed by Officer Columbo that there is a scam going around targeting the elderly. The story told to the victims is the exact story that was given to poor Gramma Ursula.
“But the caller had so much information to identify himself as Nathan,” Gramma Ursula tearfully protested.
“Yes. He likely got that information from Twitter, Myspace and Facebook. That’s what makes the story convincing,” Officer Columbo responds, a little absent mindedly.
The phone rings. Is it Nathan? Is it the scammer? Columbo nods, telling her it’s okay to pick up.
Nathan: Gramma, what’s wrong?
GU: Are you in Spain?
N: Spain? Why would I be in Spain?
GU then recounts the story of what happened.
N: Did you send the money?
GU: No. I told him to call me back.
N: Why on earth did you do that, Gramma?
GU: Well, if it was really you, I didn’t want you to be stranded in Spain.
Nathan and Gramma talk a few more minutes and when they hang up, Nathan assures Gramma that he’s not in Spain. She believes him and starts to cry.
The phone rings again.
B: Gramma. Why haven’t you sent the money? I need to get home.
Gramma hangs up and Bruce knows Gramma Ursula is wise to his deception. But, he’s not that concerned. He has Eileen on the hook. Her grandson son, Lionel, is stranded in Mozambique. Bruce sighs and shallowly and picks up the phone.
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Don't Be a Victim
While the preceding is a fictional account, the scam is real. Protect yourself from it. Don’t send money to people over the phone without verifying who they are. If someone calls you claiming to be someone you know and wants you to send them money, hang up and call them at a number you know belongs to them. If you can’t reach them, keep calling someone who can verify their story.. If the story sounds suspicious or weird to you, there’s probably a good reason. Go with your gut. Most likely, if someone is requesting money sent to a foreign country, they’re trying to rip you off.
Also, limit who can see your private info on your social media. You don’t need to be paranoid, but be very selective about who you allow to be your friend and who you allow to see your personal information.
You should be especially cautious with folks claiming to be from a collection agency. Collection agencies won’t send you a bill more than one time and, since the envelope it comes in looks like junk mail, most of us throw it out. If they call you and ask you to “settle this debt” over the phone and you don’t remember owing money to the client in question, don’t do it. Insist on a bill being sent. If they refuse to send a bill (which they will nine times out of ten. It’s apparently too expensive to send a 42 cent bill, even though the sum they’re collecting is much higher then that.), tell them you refuse to pay without one you will only communicate with them via postal mail (this is your right). Even if it’s a legitimate debt, it’s not worth giving out your personal information (By the Way, they can easily get your name, address and phone number by doing a google search. This in no way proves they are legitimate. And, for the love of God, don’t give them your Social Security Number. Not only does this allow them to ding your credit, it allows them access to your identity) over the phone. Wait for the bill that won’t come and then do a Better Business Bureau search on the company.
It’s sad that there are people out there who want to steal from hard working people, and especially the elderly, but, with the state of the world economy, these kinds of scams are becoming more prevalent. Don’t be a victim!