RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Most grandparents would do just about anything to help a grand child. It’s that unconditional love that scammers bank on to take your money.
It happened to Gerry Davis. The Henrico woman was blinded by emotion when a scammer called her early one morning pretending to be her grandson. They robbed her of thousands and then, taunted her with a late night phone call.
The Federal Trade Commission calls this type scam ‘family and friends’ impostor scams. Most people know them as “grandparent” scams. They target seniors and usually start with a phone call from a grand child in distress and in legal trouble, as it did with Gerry.
She remembers every word and even the cadence in the caller’s voice which probably helps explain why she believed it was her grandson, a freshman in college.
Gerry says, “He said ‘Hello. Gram. I’m in trouble. I’m in trouble.' I said ‘Tell me about it. Let’s just think this thing out.’”
The impostor knew to call her ‘Gram.’ He said he had been pulled over by police, arrested and jailed. All that triggered a flood of emotions and prompted her to act on all the callers’ instructions.
Gerry adds, ”I said well don’t worry and he said but they found drugs in the car. I said well that wasn’t so good but he said I am totally clear."
The phone scammer told her to go to Home Depot and purchase prepaid money cards and call them back with the numbers on the back of the cards. She says Home Depot smelled a fraud and tried to dissuade her.
Gerry says, “They said ‘Mrs. D. This is a scam.’ I said ‘I heard my grandson. I don’t want anything to happen to him. Just give me the cards.’ So they kept saying 'It’s a scam. It’s a scam.”
The crooks got several grand but wanted more. She says, “Then I got another call and they said everything is fine. Your grandson is being taken back to college. Then he said but the lawyer wants a bit more.”
This time Gerry was sent to Target to purchase more prepaid cards. Two managers at Target convinced her that she was the victim of a fraudulent and elaborate scheme.
Gerry goes on to say, “They said 'No, Mrs. Davis, this is a scam. I said ‘Don’t tell me it’s a scam.’ They said ‘Yes. Yes. Let’s get your grandson on the phone.’ Now, why didn’t I think of that? I dialed him and he said, ‘Hi Gram.’"
The calls started early morning and by the afternoon Gerry had given crooks a big chunk of her savings to save a grandson in distress.
Gerry says, “I’m thankful that my grandson was alright and my regret is that I wasn’t savvy enough at a quarter of 8 in the morning to hang up on them. Because I should have hung up.”
They played on her sense of loyalty and love, stole from her and then called back to have a laugh later that night.
Gerry recalls what the scammer said, “He said ‘Would you like to know how I’m spending your money?’ I don’t know whether my heart was missing beats or had stopped completely. I can still hear his voice. It was a very nice voice. He said ‘I am spending it on girls, drugs and music.’"
Gerry says she’s writing a letter to Target to thank the managers who saved her from losing even more money.
Her advice should you get one of these calls is to hang up and call a trusted relative or friend.
You should also report such calls to police and the FTC and be careful about details you post on social media.