Grandmother speaks out about phone scam

Danette Dooley
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A senior from Westport was surprised to get a call from her grandson recently saying he'd gotten into some trouble while on vacation in Mexico and needed her to send him $1,000 as soon as possible.
Like most grandparents, there's not a lot Ethel Jacobs wouldn't do for her loved ones.
Without hesitation, she went to the bank in Baie Verte, withdrew the money, and sent it by wire transfer.

It wasn't until after sending an additional $1,000 that Jacobs found out she'd been scammed, that the money had been sent to an untraceable account and she would likely never get it back.

During a telephone interview on Monday, Jacobs talks about how the scam unfolded.

She received a call from a young man who said he was her grandson, Matthew. He told her he'd been involved in a vehicle accident, knocking down a light pole and damaging the car he was driving.

"He said, 'I was wondering if you could help me with a little bit of money.' I said, 'My glory! Sure,'" the 76-year-old recalls.

The man who she thought was her grandson, then passed the phone to another man who told Jacobs a little more about the accident.

He said her grandson needed $1,000 but that, when she went to the bank, she might as well take out $2,000.

"I goes on to Baie Verte and (sent) $1,000. Then when I got home, he phoned again and said he wanted the other $1,000."

Jacobs went back to Baie Verte and wired the second $1,000.

When the caller phoned for the third time, although he called Jacobs by her first name, she had an inkling it wasn't her grandson who was looking for money.

"Matthew is in Texas. He's making good money... I was starting to think there was something going on."

The caller warned Jacobs not to tell anyone about the trouble her grandson was in. Matthew was embarrassed by it all, he said, and didn't want anyone to know.

When Jacobs' daughter questioned her mother why she needed a ride to the bank in Baie Verte so often, Jacobs found herself between a rock and a hard place. She didn't want to lie to her daughter. Nor did she want to betray her grandson's trust.

She decided to confide in her daughter what was going on. Jacobs' daughter called Matthew in Texas. He assured her all was okay and that he was working away in his office, was not in trouble and hadn't been to Mexico.

By this time, Jacobs was on her way to the bank once more, being driven by a relative.

Her daughter called her and suggested that, instead of going to the bank for a money withdrawal, that she go to the RCMP and explain what had happened.

She heeded her daughter's advice.

Const. Billie Gardiner of the RCMP Baie Verte Detachment said scammers such as the one who duped Jacobs out of her money "play on the heart strings of vulnerable grandparents."

It's a common occurrence, he said, called the grandparent scam.

RCMP is warning people to be cautious regarding suspicious phone calls, in which callers are asking for personal information or funds.

Always verify through other family members that the person calling is indeed where they say they are. Remember to ask for names and specific details of the caller.

"And be sure your money is going where you think it is going," Gardiner said.

Hoping to alert others to such scams

While many seniors are embarrassed to go public about being taken advantage of by fraudsters, Jacobs agreed to tell her story to help police let others know about such scams.

She'll be a lot more cautious in future, she said.

Jacobs regrets not telling her daughter about the first call, before wiring any money.

However, as we all know, hindsight is 20-20.

"People say I should not have done it but they weren't put in the position I was... They told me Matthew couldn't get out of Mexico until the money was paid. It's your grandson, what can you do... I never had a big lot of money in the bank and they would have drained me right out."


Organizations: RCMP, 20-20

Geographic location: Baie Verte, Texas, Mexico

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