After getting a frantic call from her grandson three states away, and a call-back from law enforcement, a Sampson County woman rushed to get her grandson the assistance he needed to get out of trouble — a wire transfer of $10,000 to post his bond on a drug trafficking charge.
The only problem with that was her grandson was fine. He wasn’t in trouble and he didn’t need money. That wasn’t even him on the phone and it wasn’t a police captain who called back. It was a scam, one Sampson County Sheriff’s Detective Jeff Gray wants others to be on the lookout for, because this is not the first time the con has been reported locally.
Gray, who has been with the Sheriff’s Office for just a couple weeks but worked for the Clinton Police Department for years before that, talked with the woman. He did not want to release her name, but encouraged others to be aware of similar situations.
“This is the third one I’ve dealt with,” said Gray of this particular scam, before explaining exactly what she reported. “This scam is playing on the heartstrings of the elderly.”
In this case, the woman received a call from her grandson, who said he had been arrested in Florida with a friend.
“He said the police found cocaine in the trunk but it belonged to his friend,” he noted. “The name he used was obviously the grandson’s and he knew the first name of one of the guy’s friends. He said he needed $10,000 to post bond and was going to transfer the call to the police captain.”
The phone was cut off, not an uncommon occurrence in the scam, before a man posing as the police captain called the woman’s number back to further explain what was apparently going on. Gray said the woman had not spoken to her grandson recently before getting the call, which along with the circumstances of the call, likely got her discombobulated.
“The so-called police captain called back and confirmed that the $10,000 was needed to pay the bondsman, and he only used international bank accounts,” Gray said, noting the grandmother was told her grandson would not be in a lot of trouble, because he was cooperating with law enforcement, but time was of the essence. “The police captain told her ‘we need to get him out real fast.’”
Gray pointed to a couple of red flags, one being the captain talking about payment for the bondsman, another being any involvement of an international bank account, for which the woman was given three choices — one in New York, one in California and another in a third location.
“You’ll deal with the bondsman directly,” the detective said, “and there won’t be an international bank account.”
She wired $10,000 to the New York bank account, but the quick work of sheriff’s authorities were able to recover the money. Gray urged others to be cognizant and wary of such scams, calling relatives or contacting their local law enforcement agencies when they get such calls.
“A police agency can find out if they are in jail by checking a database,” he said, “or making a call to see if that person is incarcerated.”
For more information or to report any scam, contact the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office at 910-592-4141. The Clinton Police Department can be reached at 910-592-3105.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.