Last week, a 73-year-old Sweetwater woman was scammed over the phone, but this scam pulled at the woman's heart strings, making her even more vulnerable to the scammers and essentially blinding her from seeing the red flags.
"A man called me that morning, around 10:30 a.m. and told me that he was my eldest grandson," stated the victim. "His voice sounded different and I told him so, but he said that his sinuses were stopped up."
According to the victim, the man called her Nana, which is what her grandchildren call her. "He sounded upset and he said he didn't know how to tell me, but he had a wreck. He said he had rear-ended a car."
The caller said that he was driving a friend home that was too drunk to drive, which is something her grandson would do. She asked him if anyone was hurt and he said no and that he was fine. The caller then told the victim that he needed $1,800 because he did not want to spend the week in jail. "He told me not to tell his mom. He said that he wanted to be the one to tell her and that he would then tell everyone else what happened, which is also like him," said the victim.
The caller then told the victim that she could talk to his attorney, Ricky Carmichael. "He told me that I would be switched over. Then a different man came on the phone and stated his name and told me that my grandson â€” and he called him by his name â€”Â had a wreck and was okay, but his alcohol level was just above the limit for driving a car. He said that he could get him off so he wouldn't lose his license, but I would have to send $1,800 so that he could keep his license."
The man (Carmichael) stated that he could take the victim's grandson in front of a judge and get him out of jail. He also stated that the car he rear-ended was a rental and the passengers were from a different country and had to go back home. "I was really shook up about the whole thing," the victim said. "My grandson has a CDL and I've heard that they are strict about drinking and I didn't want him to lose the license. The lawyer sounded like I had to send the money right away before anyone found out â€” meaning the people he hit â€”Â so that they wouldn't file and take him to court."
The man then told the victim that he would call back in an hour. He also gave the victim a phone number that he said was for the public defender's office if she needed to speak to them (604-362-2912). He also told her to send the money via Western Union to Ana Almonte, Puerta Plata, Dominican Republic. So the victim sent $1,800 and went home.
"The man who was pretending to be the lawyer called me back a little later and told me that the one of the passengers in the rental car had gone to a specialist when he got back home because he had hurt his back and wanted over $3,000 not to file against my grandson and go to court." The victim told the man that she did not have that kind of money, that she was on Social Security. The man told her to send what she could and he would work with it. "I was scared if I didn't send at least $1,800 they would take my grandson to court and no telling how long that would take."
So the victim sent another $1,800 and the man had given her another name to send it to. The name this time was Gabriel Rosario and the address was the same.
"I called my grandson to see if he had gotten out. I don't remember what time it was when I called, but he was at work. It just went all over me. I'd been scammed. I felt so stupid. I knew about some scams, but hadn't heard of this one," the victim said.
When she knew she had been scammed, the victim went to the Western Union to try to stop the payments from going through. The first payment had already been picked up. The Western Union employees stopped the second payment from going through, so the victim got that payment back. "I was very lucky. I can look back now and see the red flags. If only I had not gotten so upset, I would have seen them, but these people prey on your feelings for your loved ones, who naturally you want to help. I hope and pray if anything good comes out of this, that it will keep them from doing this to someone else. If so, it would be worth losing the money. It is important to report it, no matter how you feel. These people need to be stopped now."
The victim contacted the Attorney General's office and they told her that they change numbers, so it is difficult to catch the scammers. She also reported the scam to the Sweetwater Police Department and Detective Melinda Moncada is working the case. Det. Moncada stated that when the number that was given to the victim of the public defender's office, a recorded message came on, stating that it was a public defender's office. When the number was later called, the call would not go through. According to the Names and Numbers phone book, the area code came from British Columbia. The number was also not able to be traced by the phone company.