“My grandson has had an accident. He’s rear-ended somebody,” the 87-year-old informs the driver as she gets into the cab. “He called me, and he needs $4,000 to get out of this jam.” As his passenger explains the situation, however, the driver gets suspicious.
The details of the situation are enough to make everyone skeptical. According to the man who was allegedly the woman’s grandson, his grandmother needed to buy Walmart gift cards. This was the only way to keep him from going to jail and she naturally believed this.
Once she had bought the cards, the grandmother was supposed to send the numbers of the gift cards to her “grandson”. This might sound a bit sketchy but the woman was convinced that it was her grandson. And this wasn’t the first time she did something like this.
The woman had received a similar call from her grandson earlier on in the day asking her to buy $4,000 worth of Home Depot gift cards. Being the loving and concerned grandmother that she was, she had immediately gone to do so. However, he called back and asked for more.
When she got into the cab driven by Richard Spencer, she told him to take her to Walmart. As she told him the story and he felt concerned. Something about getting calls asking her for huge sums of money, especially as gift cards, didn’t make sense to him.
To make matters worse, one of Spencer’s own friends, who also drives a cab, had taken the woman to the store that morning to buy two gift cards worth $2,000 each. Spencer’s friend had told him about the incident which is why the woman’s story had made him suspicious. What’s more, he’d heard something similar before.
A few years earlier, Spencer had taken another elderly person on a similar errand. They had also been contacted by their “grandchild” who needed help. They had also asked for a lot of money and even then he had thought it sounded like a scam.
During that first encounter, Spencer knew he had to intervene and knew he had to again. “Excuse me, ma’am, but that is not your grandson,” he told the woman. “It’s someone posing.” Instead of taking her to Walmart, he drove her straight to the Quincy Police Station.
Once there, the police confirmed Spencer’s suspicions. The police confirmed that what had happened was a classic example of what is known as a “grandparent scam” and that it definitely hadn’t been her grandson that called.
The website Fraud.org describes what a grandparent scam entails. According to the site, it’s when “a con artist calls or emails the victim posing as a relative in distress or someone claiming to represent the relative.” This individual could, for instance, purport to be a lawyer or an agent of the law.
And in a scenario in which the fraudster claims to be one of the grandparent’s loved ones, they may directly request money. As Fraud.org puts it, “The ‘relative’ of the grandparent explains she is in trouble and needs their grandparent to wire them funds. [They would then claim] that [the funds] will be used for bail money, lawyer’s fees, hospital bills or another fictitious expense.”
In order for the scammer to avoid detection, then, Fraud.org explains that they may urge the victim to keep quiet about the money transfer. The person affected could be encouraged not to even speak to the parents of the “grandchild” in distress; the scammer may pretend that they’re too ashamed, for example, to let their folks know about the bad situation in which they’re involved.
Scams of this nature may therefore callously prey on the good-hearted nature of grandparents who are simply too concerned about their loved ones to think about the credibility of the story. And such schemes can coax them out of thousands of dollars in some cases, with the fraudsters then potentially able to disappear without a trace.
What’s more, in almost every case of this nature, the scammers are never caught; there is also often little chance of recovering the money that has been lost. All in all, then, the duped grandparent can be left out of pocket – simply for trying to do a good deed for a relative in need.
This, sadly, appeared to be the reality for Spencer’s passenger. And although his intervention meant that he had stopped the victim from handing over further funds, some damage had already been done. After going to the police department, however, the taxi driver took the elderly woman to the bank to try and stop the scammer from getting their hands on her money.