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Elderly Sammamish Couple Bilked Out of $90,000

The couple were convinced to wire large amounts of cash by a series of phone callers claiming to be trying to get their grandson out of serious legal trouble.

An elderly Sammamish couple called police on Friday, April 13, to report that they had been victims of a nearly $90,000 fraud scam, perpetrated over the course of five days. The couple, both around 80 years old, were contacted by a young man who they told police "sounded just like their grandson" and defrauded over the course of five days, discovering the scam when their actual grandson called them on Friday.

It was a phone fraud that has become increasingly common in Washington state, including cases in Gig Harbor, and is often referred to as the “grandchild scam.” The Washington State Attorney General’s Office advises people to consider any request for a wire transfer invariably a fraudulent scheme and to be suspicious any time you’re asked to send money quickly—and secretly.

Sammamish police say the couple had received a phone call from someone purporting to be their grandson who lives in the area. He told them he was in Georgia and claimed he was in desperate need after being arrested for a vehicle accident there, and begging them not to tell his parents about the trouble he was in. The next day, another man called, claiming he was the young man’s attorney, and convincing the couple to wire a total of more than $6,000 to a person in Arima, Trinidad for attorney fees, court fees, and damages.

The couple received yet another call next day, April 11, from the “attorney,” who told them more money was required because the victim of the accident had a broken femur and insurance would not cover all of the medical costs. Later that day, furthering the scam, a woman called claiming to be the prosecuting attorney in the case. During the course of this, the couple was urged not to tell the boys parents about any of this, and they told Sammamish police they had been very deeply troubled about the tight spot their grandson was in. The couple made subsequent wire transfers for $5,750 and $77,500 for medical expenses and bail, respectively, with the help of their broker, but without giving the broker any details about why they needed to transfer the money.

Finally, on April 13, the supposed attorney called the couple again, claiming that the victim in the accident had had a miscarriage and was demanding $500,000 in damages. At that point, the couple told him that the “cookie jar was empty” and urged that the grandson tell his parents so they could help him decide what to do. The man then asked the couple specific questions about the boy’s uncle, indicating that he was going to call him for money next.

The couple finally realized they were being scammed when their actual grandson called simply to find out if they would like their lawn mowed on Saturday. The couple called their broker to see if they could freeze the account and get a return wire transfer, and they reported the fraud to the FBI.

At this time the suspects have not been identified, but Sammamish Police have some leads and have been in contact with law enforcement in Houston and Los Angeles regarding those leads, said Sergeant Jessica Sullivan. She said they hope to get a federal agency such as the FBI involved.

For more information on common telephone fraud schemes, see this information from the Federal Trade Commission

Kim Hilliker April 19, 2012 at 03:23 PM
This is such a sad story. It would be very easy for anyone, yet alone the elderly to get scammed.
Shital Mehta April 19, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Eye Opener. Learning: Keep your family informed where you are, even if it's a party place and you have urge to hide it to be Cool.
Jeanne Gustafson April 21, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Yeah, and be sure to call your grandparents frequently!
Michael Dwells April 21, 2012 at 10:35 PM
I feel terrible for the couple. It must have been devastating to realize they lost all that much money to a scammer. We can only hope that the authorities will be able to rack the culprits and at least, get some of the money back. I've read of similar scams reported at http://www.callercenter.com and I realized that this particular scam will be hard to stop. This targets on the love and concern grandparents naturally have for their grandchildren. Most of the scam victims confirmed so. They admitted they were usually the cautious type, especially with anonymous calls, but as soon as they heard it was their "grandchild" on the other and in a desperate situation, they worried and wanted to help right away. And that's just what the scammers are counting on.
Jeanne Gustafson April 22, 2012 at 05:00 AM
Thanks for your comment, Michael, this is definitely a disturbing trend. I was showing my parents on the Internet just today how easily someone can find their ages and address online, the value of their home, the names of their children, and all sorts of other information that could be used to scam them. We can all help educate relatives and friends who might be vulnerable to these types of scams.

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