Southern Arizona | Investigating 4 You

N4T Investigators: Scare tactics

TUCSON – Nina’s Smith’s 79-year old mother received a call recently from a guy saying Nina’s son was arrested for DUI. Nina’s mother, who’s the boy’s grandmother, was shaken, and immediately told Nina about the call.

“At this point my heart’s starting to pump pretty fast in my chest,” Nina told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. “I’m like, ‘What’s going on?”

So Nina called the man who called her mother. “He answered the phone, “Police department.”  No location, just “Police department.”

The scammers couldn’t even get their story straight. The guy who called Nina’s mother said the grandson was in jail. When Nina called, she got a different answer. The guy said the grandson was in the hospital. “Right away, I knew something was wrong, and he hung up on me, ” Nina said.

Nina said the man sounded American with no discernable accent. In any event, Nina’s 23-year-old son was in Tucson and was fine.

While Nina and her mother didn’t fall for it, a lot of people have. The Federal Trade Commission says nearly one in five people reported losing money in 2017 in an imposter scheme like this one. Scammers call senior citizens posing as a hospital or court employee, or a police officer or even as the grandchild. They say you have to wire money to them immediately to help your grandchild.

“No law enforcement is going to ask for funds for assistance,” said Detective Eric Cervantez of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department’s fraud unit. Cervantez said if you get one of these calls, “Hang up immediately and call a family member that would have a location on their grandchild to confirm that it’s a scam.”

Also, the FTC says,  if you get one of these calls:

-Don’t act right away, no matter how dramatic the story is.
-Be careful about what you post on social media. If your personal details are public, scammers can use them to defraud you.

We called the phone number the scammer used to call Nina’s mother. No one answered and we didn’t get a message; the number was just not working.

Detective Cervantez said, “It’s quite shameful that we live here in southern Arizona, retirement community, it seems like we’re targeted in a sense of trying to take advantage of the elders.”

Nina Smith added, “I just think it’s appalling. I mean, my mom, she lives by herself, and she was just totally frightened. I mean she could have had a heart attack, I mean it’s just a serious situation.”

For what it’s worth, the scammer’s caller I.D. showed an area code in Wyoming. But scammers use technology to change the actual number they’re calling from, so it’s very difficult for law enforcement to find them. Remember, if you get one of these calls, don’t panic. Hang up and call your grandchild or his or her parents to confirm that he or she is indeed okay.

If you have a story you’d like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.

 

Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz has been an investigative reporter since 1993. He specializes in reporting on corruption, fraud and scams.
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