Ask questions, don't send money
By asking three simple questions, Darlene Lewis of Alexandria saved herself $7,000.
One October morning, the 77-year-old woman received a phone call from someone claiming to be her grandson, Josh.
"Hi, Grandma, this is Josh," the person on the other end of the line said. Lewis does have a grandson named Josh who is stationed in Virginia as an officer in the Marines.
She stated that the caller sounded like he was in a tunnel, which led the grandmother to think her grandson was far away.
The caller knew Darlene's name and knew that she lived on Lake Mary.
He claimed to be in Jamaica for a friend's wedding and said, "I'm in Jamaica and I'm in a little bit of trouble - the Marines don't know I'm here."
The crafty caller continued, "Grandma, I rented a car and got in an accident. I only had two beers. I have to come up with $7,000 or they're going to put me in jail and that would ruin my career."
He explained to Lewis that the woman in the car ahead of him had slammed on her brakes and the accident wasn't his fault.
Lewis suggested, "Why don't you call your dad, Josh?" The caller was insistent that he couldn't tell his dad and wanted Lewis to send him the money.
When Lewis asked how she was supposed to get the money to him, the caller responded by saying it must be a bank-to-bank money transfer.
Lewis was fast thinking and rather than immediately exposing the young man as a fraud, she carefully asked three questions.
"Well, honey - it's not that I don't believe you. But, I want to make sure that you are my Josh," she stated calmly.
Lewis has five sons - three of which were in the Marines. This gave her the idea to quiz the caller about his family knowledge.
"How many wonderful uncles do you have, Josh?" He thought for a while and said, "Three." The answer should have been four.
The sharp-witted grandmother concealed the inaccuracy of the young man's answer as to not alarm him.
"How many of your uncles were Marines?" Again, the caller paused before answering, "One." Another wrong answer.
Not once did Lewis indicate to the caller that his answers were incorrect.
"And how many cousins do you have in the Marines?" inquired Lewis. The question was again followed by a wrong answer.
Upon hearing that, it was time for Lewis to get down to business.
"Young man, I don't know who you are, but you've failed to answer three key questions about your family," she scolded. "Now, don't try to scam an old lady and go get a real job."
Lewis was shocked by the caller's next move. "He hung up on me!" she said.
As a victim of what she believes was a scam, Lewis wants other people to know to ask questions. "Don't just send money," she emphasized.
She has yet to speak to her grandson, Josh, about the incident. However, Lewis found out from the young Marine's dad that he is fine, was not recently in Jamaica, in a car accident or in need of $7,000.
Phone scams have become such a widespread problem that the Minnesota Attorney General's Office recently released information in reference to the growing concern. Below is some of that information, along with helpful tips from Larry Dailey with the Alexandria Police Department.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Phone scams come in various forms. Often, it is a distressed family member or a foreign official calling in regards to a distressed family member.
Other phone scams may ask for information in order for you to receive a prize or award.
Criminals involved with scams are intelligent and technology savvy.
It may be cliché, but if it sounds or looks too good to be true, it probably is.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Question anyone asking for personal or banking information or asking you to send money now. Once you send money, the chances of getting it back are not good.
Verify caller's identity.
Resist pressure to act immediately.
Do not reveal other family members names or information until the caller's identity has been confirmed.
Try to trace the call by immediately dialing *57 after you hang up from a suspected fraudulent phone call.
Discuss any suspicious activity with family and friends before acting on the caller's requests.
Report the suspicious activity to local law enforcement.