When 85-year-old Marie picked up the phone it was her grandson Jake in some kind of trouble and he needed her help.
Or, so she believed.
The people who phoned the SCV grandmother – lying, scheming extortionists who prey on the good nature of big-hearted old people – demanded $2,100 for Jake’s release from a jail in New York City.
And, worried for the welfare of her grandson, Marie raced to the nearest Western Union and wired the money needed. She even paid the $42 transaction fee.
It wasn’t until later when the same callers demanded an addition $9,000 that she suspected a scam and called the cops.
“It turned out it wasn’t Jake,” she told The Signal at the end of her story. “It was the fake Jake.”
The callers told her “Jake” didn’t want his father – Marie’s son – to know about the mess he was in.
The “fake Jake” sounded just like the real Jake, Marie said Wednesday.
“I picked up the phone and the man said ‘Grandma, this is Jake.’ And he sounded like my grandson,” she said.
“I told him ‘What do you need?’ and he said ‘I’ll let you speak to my attorney, David Thompson’ and this man said ‘In order to get Jake released, you have to send a check right away for $2,100.’
“He said ‘I need it right away,’
“He said ‘Go to the Western Union and you can go to the one in Walgreens on the corner.’ He knew exactly where I was.”
When Marie answered her phone the second time, she told “David Thompson” the money had been paid and asked to speak to Jake.
Instead, the caller demanded she pay an additional $9,000 for “complications.”
“The man said ‘I just got news that Jake hit this woman’s car from the back and she was pregnant. Well, she lost the baby. I want $9,000.’
“I told him I don’t have $9,000. I can give you $4,000 but not nine. He said “Fine, I’ll accept $4,000 for bail.”
The extortionists let Marie speak to the “fake Jake.”
“And he (fake Jake) said ‘I don’t want my mother and father to know. When I get home I’ll pay you back.’ I figured everything will be OK.
“Then I said ‘But, Jake, you don’t drink. And, why are you in New York? You’re supposed to be at work?’” Marie said.
The “fake Jake” had a reason for being in New York.
Marie started making arrangement to have $4,000 transferred from her bank account to an account number given to her by the caller.
That’s when she called Jake’s mother – the real mother of the real Jake, Marie’s daughter-in-law.
The daughter-in-law – together with Marie’s son, Jake’s father – raced over to see Marie in person.
“But, when I saw my grandson walk in with them, I said ‘What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be in New York?’”
Marie called the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, she said.
“They said ‘I can’t do anything for you?,” Marie said, referring to the responding deputies.
Marie told The Signal she was confident the deputies could track the culprits through the bank account number she was given.
Officials at the SCV Sheriff’s Station routinely issue bulletins alerting senior citizens about “phone scammers.”
In one of their more recent bulletins posted on social media, they warn: “phone scammers say anything to get money, a number of SCV senior citizens have been targeted.”
The bulletin reads: “The scammer will seem friendly, maybe use your first name, and then claim to have information about a family member. These scams generally target the elderly population. The scammer may even provide the name and birthdate of a grandchild; using this information to feign credibility.
The SCV Sheriff’s Station reported taking reports from victims scammed anywhere from one to two thousand dollars.
“Last Friday, there was a woman that walked into our Sheriff’s Station front lobby and she was actually on her cell phone with ‘a scammer’ as she approached our Counter Deputy Greg Hutt,” Shirley Miller, spokeswoman for the SCV Sheriff’s Station said Thursday.
“The caller on the other end identified themselves as being with the DEA and said that she had a warrant out for her arrest and she needed to pay them via gift cards or they would come pick her up and take her to jail.
“She told the caller that she was in the Sheriff’s Station so why would they need to come pick her up,” Miller said.
“They still didn’t hang up at the point, but instead told her to leave the Sheriff’s Station because they would need to be the ones to pick her up. When the woman further questioned the caller, the caller hung up on her.”
Miller noted there “are still IRS scam calls” being reported too.”
“The biggest message to get out to the public is that it’s a huge red flag if anyone asks you to make payment with gift cards,” she said. ” Legitimate agencies would never do that.”
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt