Sharing a distressing happening with all of you in the hopes of shining a big, bright light on scams and scammers out there. We were lucky because although our intended victim fit the profile, was partially convinced even, something didn’t seem right. In the end he was too smart to be taken. But another person, caught at the wrong moment, in the wrong circumstances, could easily be a victim who is out some serious cash. $3,500 in our case to get a nephew out of an alcohol driving incident the night before.
Here were the things that acted as red flags:
- The emphasis on secrecy
- How fast the cash was needed
- Insistence (and instruction)) on an all cash transaction
- Some hint of plausibility
If you, or a family member, gets a call (or email) like this, it’s fine to promise anything while you’re on the phone. This obligates you to nothing but helps you get details from the scammer. Remember, scammers are good at what they do — they can think fast and have plausible answers (ours did) to most of the expected questions. Listen, take down all the details, promise anything and get off the phone. If the contact is by email, print it out but do not reply.
Use this time to take a minute and think about what you’ve been told, and what you know to be true. Is what you’ve been told plausible… does it fit with where people are in your life. Make the calls to check on family members traveling abroad or students off at college. If this isn’t possible, call the non emergency number of your local police and ask some questions — they’ll tell you the real truth, no money needed.
As a preemptive measure, you might come up with a “code word” to be used in the case of genuine emergency. No word, no money, no matter what. In our case, a call was made to the local police before any money changed hands. They took all of two seconds to assure us this was a scam. Another call verified the whereabouts of our nephew who had not been out of his dorm all night, had not been arrested, hadn’t called for help.
When our scammer didn’t hear back from us, he tried several times to contact us. When we finally picked up, I’ll admit, we did have a bit of fun fun at his expense. It was only fair after the upset the whole thing caused us all.
Just beware out there, as they say on Game of Thrones, “The night is dark and full of terrors.”