An old scam finds a new victim

WESTFIELD – City police are reminding residents to be wary of callers claiming to be family members in need after an 84-year-old Southampton Road resident was bilked of more than $2,800 by a scammer.
Det. Todd Edwards of the financial crimes unit of the city’s detective bureau reports he was contacted by a victim on Monday and informed that she had received a phone call from a female party who claimed to be her granddaughter.
The woman said that she questioned the woman saying that she did not sound like her granddaughter but said she was told that her caller said she had a cold. The woman went on to say that she was calling from Guatemala where she had traveled with a friend who had invited her after she won tickets for the trip.
The girl told the victim that she had been arrested on drug charges in Guatemala and needed her grandmother to send her money to get out of jail. The younger woman also asked the victim not to tell anybody about her mistake.
The woman said that she then spoke with a man who said that he was her granddaughter’s lawyer and instructed her to send $2,800 to a person in Guatemala via Western Union. He said he would call back in an hour so she could give him the necessary information to collect the money from Western Union.
The woman said that she went to her bank to withdraw the necessary money and said that the teller asked her no questions before disbursing the funds.
The woman then went to a local supermarket where she sent the money to Guatemala via Western Union and, again, the clerk completed the transaction without any reservation.
The victim said that she spoke with the man purporting to be her granddaughter’s lawyer and provided him with the requested information so he could claim the money from Western Union.
A short time later the woman again heard for her original caller who asked for an additional $2,500 for plane fare home because her friend had left the country without her.
The victim then had second thoughts and disconnected the call.
She then called her granddaughter and found that she was in Georgia. The girl said that she had never left the country and had not been in any trouble.
When the victim called Western Union she was told that the funds had been collected.
The victim told Edwards that she could not believe that she had fallen for the scam and said that she realized, since the money had been sent out of the country, that there was no hope that she could recover it.
Edwards reports that he spoke with the security officer at the victim’s bank who said that she had sent tellers a memo earlier in the year asking them to be on the lookout for customers who deviate from their usual habits and to inform them of the possibility of scams. The security officer reports she will remind the tellers and ask them to warn customers, especially those who fall into the target demographic for scams, of the dangers of sending money to people they don’t know.
Det. Sgt. Raymond Manos suggests that, if a resident receives a call from a family member and has any doubt at all of the identity of the caller he or she should call the party back and should not use any number provided by the caller but should use existing contact information to call back.
He also suggests that, even if the caller asks that no other family members be informed, the recipient should check with other family members to ascertain where the family member in need actually is.
He points out that older residents are often targeted for this and other scams and all residents should be very cautious, especially when asked to send money by Western Union.
He said that, no matter where the sender expects the money to be received, funds sent by Western Union can be collected anywhere in the world if the recipient has the correct money control number.
“Be careful that you’re absolutely positive the money is going to who you’re sending it to” Manos said.
“There are no refunds from Western Union” he added.

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