Telephone scam targets the elderly
April 2, 2012 (WPVI) -- A growing number of senior citizens in our area are being targeted by a scam and many have already lost thousands of dollars.
When Sue Tinsman picked up the phone, the person on the other end of the line sounded like her godson.
"He said he was in jail - he'd had a serious automobile accident," she said.
Tinsman says the caller even knew her nickname.
"He said, 'Nestor I need some money badly' and he sounded as if he was in tears," she said.
Tinsman followed the instructions given to her by her godson's so-called public defender and she wired two payments of $2,400 to Madrid.
"I said Spain - why? Immediately he said because that's the insurance company's home office," said Tinsman.
She wired the money via Western Union from Kmart and Genuardi's but the next day she got another call.
The "public defender" said she needed to send another $5,000 because her godson's friend couldn't come up with his half.
This time she went to a Rite-Aid then back to Genuardi's where an employee named had already filled out a suspicious activity report from Tinsman's transaction the day before.
Nida Mcclay remembered seeing that report when Tinsman tried to wire the second payment.
"I said, well, I think you've been scammed," said Mcclay.
At first Tinsman didn't want to believe it.
"It wasn't until I called my godchild and said, 'Tim, where are you?' And he said, 'I'm at work, Nestor, what's the matter?' Whereupon I burst into tears. I felt so stupid and so taken," said Tinsman.
This scam isn't new, while there has been a spike in recent months.
"This scam has absolutely exploded in the past two or three months. Consumer protection advocates like myself are very concerned about the increase we've seen recently," said Michael Bannon.
Bannon with Bucks County Consumer Protection says in just the past couple months, his office has received 150 phone calls about the scam.
He believes more cases are out there and the scam is grossly under-reported so he urges victims to reach out to authorities.
"Once you've been victimized, it really doesn't stop. The telephone keeps ringing with other scams and sales opportunities so it can keep going," said Bannon.
As for Tinsman.
"I would like to think I have learned from it and I just hope everyone else learns from it, too," she said.
She's also grateful to the Genuardi's employees who saved her from losing another $5,000.
For more information and for scam warning signs visit:
scam, consumer news, nydia han
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