Sunday, May 17, 2015

What They Didn't Print - Phone Scam

I have no idea what happened. I thought I submitted this to the newspaper but I might have been mistaken or used the wrong email address for the new editor.  Perhaps they deemed it irrelevant even though I thought it might help others in our community.

Life has been chaotic lately to say the least. Gradually, things are getting back to semi normal. Anyhow, here's what I wrote that wasn't published.

A Warning to All

It happened during a lunch hour. I received a terrifying call on my landline. My body stiffened as I listened to a frightened and quivering voice. “I’m so sorry mom. I had an accident. I’m sorry”.

The next thing I heard was, “Hello ma’am, this is officer Patrick Albright badge #3147.  We have your son here at the police station. He’s been involved in a collision. He was texting and blew a red light, colliding with a rental vehicle containing some tourists.”

I was shaking as I inquired as to whether anyone was hurt.  I was told that my son had some cuts and bruises but generally, all were ok. He had been contrite and was honest about what he had done and this would help his case. I was in shock and feeling nauseated.

Then, something unusual happened. The “officer” used a different name when referring to my son. He told me that new laws about texting and driving were serious, that they were working on getting the charges reduced, and that someone would call me back shortly.

The next call came. A man introduced himself as public defender Paul Davis. I noted that he described the accident differently, discouraged me from coming to the Oshawa station, and claimed that the tourists in the rental car had paid the $3900 in repair costs after receiving a quick estimate. They didn’t want to be delayed as they were on their way to the airport for an evening flight home. This was all sounding too strange to me. I asked to talk to my son and was told he already had his one phone call. One phone call for a traffic accident? Why would there even be a public defender? I kept the individual on the line and continued to take notes as I was now becoming increasingly angry. I texted my son from my cell.

“Where R U?”

 Fortunately, the response was almost instantaneous. “I’m at work. Why?”

Next, I was told that I would only have to send half the damages for the rental vehicle, $1889.68. These people were obviously better at scamming than they were at math. I stayed on the line long enough to be directed to a convenience store in a small town near here. I was to send a money gram in the aforementioned amount to reimburse the tourists. I would receive my money back from the insurance company in a few days.

I had heard of these money scams where people pose as relatives, phone, and ask for cash to be forwarded. How could anyone actually fall for such a thing, I often wondered. Well, I don’t mind saying that when it happens, you’re caught off guard. The con artists work on your emotions, your fears, your pride, and your eagerness to rescue the relative who is in trouble. They are terrible, evil people who not only attempt to defraud but also cause emotional and potential physical harm to their victims.

Based on my experience, and hindsight, I would suggest that should such a call occur, immediately ask for the relative’s full name, birthdate, vehicle that they were driving or any other personal information that could help determine the validity of the call. Ask for a phone number and offer to call back. Above all, don’t give any information about yourself.

I am sharing this story as a warning to others. The predators are currently telephoning in our area. They are even going so far as to suggest a local money gram location to forward funds and make our relative’s problem go away. My wish is that we could make the problem of these telephone scammers go away. 


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