75-year-old Raleigh woman loses thousands in 'Grandparents Scam'

Diane Wilson Image
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
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A Raleigh woman lost thousands in a scam targeting grandparents

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- "Help, I'm in trouble!"

It's the phrase that is costing grandparents thousands of dollars. A 75-year-old Raleigh woman is one of the latest victims to this "Grandparents scam."

Barbara said she answered the phone one morning, and the person on the other end told her he was her grandson. Barbara thought the caller sounded different than her grandson, but she says he told her he just had a cold.

"He said 'I'm in a hot spot here, I'm down in Florida with a friend,'" she recalled.

He then told Barbara he had been speeding and was pulled over, and that the police found marijuana in the car. That's when he handed the phone over to someone claiming to be the sergeant.

"[The sergeant] said 'The bond is six grand," and I said 'I don't have that,' and he said 'Well, he has two grand on him,' and I said "Let me see what I can do."

The men told Barbara she could get her grandson the money by buying iTunes gift cards from her local Best Buy.

"I said 'I don't even know what an iTunes card was,'" explained Barbara.

After the "sergeant" walked her through the steps, she took a trip to Best Buy and bought eight iTunes gift cards totaling $4,000.

Barbara said the caller told her to keep everything confidential. She said she did not question the situation, because she was focused on helping her grandson.

She called the number back and read off the numbers from the back of the iTunes card to get the money to the men. Barbara waited to hear from her grandson, but she heard from the supposed sergeant instead.

He told Barbara he needed another $500.

Barbara went out and bought one more iTunes gift card, which made a total of $4,500 she spent to help out her grandson.

She waited to hear that her grandson was released from jail. When she didn't hear from him, she called her daughter's home in Pennsylvania to see if she had any news.

Barbara's actual grandson answered the phone and explained that he had not been in Florida. Barbara realized she had been scammed.

"I can't believe I fell for that," Barbara shared. "My husband is probably turning upside in the grave, as he always taught me to be very careful to never trust anyone, and I feel like I let him down."

The Raleigh Police Department is investigating the incident, but there is not much that can be done once the money is gone.

To make sure this doesn't happen to you, we have some tips:

1. Beware of anyone who asks you for money immediately, no matter the reason.

2. Don't share personal information with people you don't know.

3. Ask the person claiming to be your family questions that only your family member would know.

4. Be careful with your social media accounts.

You can find more tips and information on this scam here.