Fox 4 steps in after scammers prey on grandparents
CAPE CORAL - A cruel scam is targeting southwest Florida grandparents by phone. There's just one thing they didn't count on - Fox 4 was on the other end of the line.
When Lee Bleser answered the phone she thought it was her grandson TC.
"The person on the other end said, 'Hi grandma,'" said Bleser. "And I said hi."
The man told her he was in Peru and needed help fast.
"I said Peru? When did you leave?," said Bleser. "We talked a little bit and he said, 'Hey I'm in a lot of trouble here.'"
The elaborate story involved getting pulled over with a pound of pot. And the only way he would avoid jail is if she wired $2500.
"I just said I think your dad's the one you should be calling about this," she recalled. "And he said 'I just can't do that you know he'll be.' And I just went OK and I said 'well how about your mom?' And he said, 'oh we're not talking.'"
She passed the phone to her husband, Steve, who spoke to a man claiming to be a U.S. Embassy employee.
"This guy sounded really good," said Bleser. "He gave me a badge number also...it sounded official as hell."
The scammers told them to wire money as soon as possible - no time to tell anybody - but a quick call to TC confirmed he was safe at home.
Fox 4 traced the number to Quebec, Canada not Peru, and asked Bleser to call the scammers back.
"It's ringing," he said.
Within minutes, Bleser was asked to wire money, again, to keep his grand kid out of jail.
"I didn't get where you wanted me to send the money," said Bleser.
That's when he handed the phone to Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.
"Hello my name is Matt Grant and I'm a reporter with the Fox News affiliate down in Fort Myers, Fla, and we have reason to believe you're scamming this couple," said Grant.
"You don't know what you're talking about," the person on the other end said.
"We don't know what we're talking about?," asked Grant. "His grandson is fine why are you telling him that his grandson's in Peru and needs money?"
The person said to "mind your own business," and that it was a case of "mistaken identity" before hanging up.
The Bleser's say they don't want anyone to fall for the scam.
"I hate to think that we are that predictable but I think maybe we would have," said Lee. "You do things for your kids and grand kids."
The Better Business Bureau in Clearwater says they receive complaints of this scam on a "regular basis."
- Verify the caller's identity by asking personal questions a stranger couldn't answer.
- Resist the pressure to act immediately; don't be afraid to call back by using a phone number you know to be genuine. If you don't have the relative's phone number, get in touch with the person's parent, spouse or another close relative to check out the story before sending money - even if you've been told to keep the call a secret.
- No matter how dramatic the story don't wire money. Don't sent a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier either. Con artists recommend these services so they can get your money before you realize you've been cheated. And there's no way to get your money back.
- Report possible fraud at ftc.gov or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP
Attorney General Economic Crimes Unit Tips:
- Contact an immediate family member to confirm the nature of the call.
- Never use money transfer services.
- Always send funds to a known address.