By Reggie Ellis
The Exeter Police Department reported that five elderly women were targeted for a phone scam in Exeter last week, four of them in one day.
Officer Tim Woods said he took four reports of elderly women between the ages of 60 and 90 being the target of the scam on Wednesday, March 24. Woods said all the women reported similar conversations with the scam artists. In each case, a man, who has a young sounding voice in the late teens early 20s, called the women claiming to be their grandson asking for money to bail them out of jail. The conversation between the "Scam Artist" and an "Elderly Woman" goes something like this:
SA:"Hey grandma, it's me."
EW: "Who is this?"
SA: "You know who it is?"
EW: "Is this Billy?"
SA: "Of course its Billy. I am in a lot of trouble grandma and there is no one else I can call for help. I knew I could trust you and we could keep it between you and me."
Once the man makes a connection he tells the women how he backed his car into another car in a parking lot, usually in Stockton, Turlok or Tracy. He says he didn't notice any damage so left the scene because the owner was not around. He says he was stopped by a police officer several blocks later and was arrested for a misdemeanor hit and run. He said he is in jail and only needs $500 to pay the bail bondsmen because they don't accept checks, only cash.
"Grandmothers will do anything for their grandsons so they often offer to even get the car out of the impound," Woods said. "The person wisely refuses saying he only needs the $500, a very believable amount. That really helps sell the deal."
To make it seem more realistic, another man's voice comes over the line claiming to be the bail bondsmen. Once the woman agrees to sending the money, the bail bondsmen asks if he can confirm the first, middle and last name of the "grandson."
"They had nothing to being with and now they have all the information they need to make fake identification," Woods said. "It is a real believable story and these guys are pretty convincing so be sure you know who you are talking to."
The alleged bail bondsmen goes on to say that grandma can wire the cash through Western Union. If they are not sure where a Western Union is, the man suggests the one located in Rite Aid on Visalia Road.
This may lead you to believe that it is someone local .However, Western Union has more than 170,000 agent locations in more than 190 countries worldwide. At the company's website you can easily type in an address taken from a phone book and it will give you a list of the nearest Western Union locations. Unfortunately, none of the women has caller ID so the phone numbers cannot be traced.
Of the three women who actually wired the cash, only one transfer was picked up before the police department could put a stop on it.
"He even called back to say thank you and that he would see her soon," Woods said.
The other two women hung up the phone and informed the police. Officer Woods said if you wire the money, the first thing you should do is stop the transfer and then report it to the police department as quickly as possible.
"If no money is transferred it doesn't generate a report, but after last week we are now keeping track of all of these types of calls," Woods said. "Please make sure you know who you are talking to on the phone before making any decisions."
To report a phone scam call the Exeter Police Department at 592-3103.