A 73-year-old Long Island grandmother got a call from a man who said he was her grandson. Knowing it was a scam, she called the police and told the scammers to come and pick up money at her house, where one of them was arrested.
The grandmother got a call on Thursday morning from a man posing as her relative, claiming that he was in jail for drunk driving and that he needed $8,000 for bail.
The 73-year-old woman was identified by WCBS only by her first name – Jean. She told the local TV station that her grandsons are much too young to drive.
“I knew he was a real scammer. I just knew he wasn’t going to scam me,” she said.
Jean invited a man acting as a bail bondsman to come and pick up the cash, but when she handed him an envelope filled with paper towels, he was tackled to the ground by police.
Joshua Estrella Gomez, 28, was arrested at the home. He was charged with attempted grand larceny in the third degree, the Nassau County Police Department said. It’s unclear if Mr Gomez has retained an attorney.
Police said he was “released on an appearance ticket” and that he’s due to appear in court on 3 February.
FBI data show that millions of older people are the victims of scams each year, with the crimes worsening during the Covid-19 pandemic. The FBI found that people over the age of 60 lost $1bn to scams in 2020, but the agency now states that annual losses have increased to up to $3bn.
Scammers often pretend to be supplying tech support, to be working for the IRS, or a charity. The FBI says scammers go after older people because they are often “trusting and polite” and tend to have money saved away.
An 81-year-old retired professor was scammed in July 2020 by a man who said he was with the Social Security Administration and claimed that Mexican drug traffickers were using his identity to smuggle drugs and people.
Knowing personal details about the professor, he convinced him to send gift cards and cash to the tune of thousands of dollars to Virginia, where the scammer said he would use it to lure in the traffickers.
The scam that was employed against Jean last week, in which the scammer poses as a family member in desperate need of financial aid, is also commonly used. The scammers sometimes say they need help with a hospital bill or that they’re in jail and need to be bailed out.
In Jean’s case, she talked to one person who claimed to be working in the Nassau County court system, and another who claimed to be a lawyer named Matt Levine. He knew her full name, age and address, according to Newsday.
Jean texted her daughter and her friend, who both work at a 911 call centre. They notified law enforcement, and two officers were dispatched to Jean’s home. The officers bore witness to the scammers speaking to Jean during several additional calls, police said.
The grandmother told the supposed lawyer that she had the cash to pay for the bail. The lawyer said a bail bondsman would be at the home in ten minutes to pick up the money.
When a man arrived at the home and took the envelope, Jean was on the phone with one of the swindlers. The officers came out the front door as the man turned around and started to walk away. Jean watched from her porch as the officers tackled Mr Gomez on the lawn.
Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder urged people to warn their elderly relatives about the scams.
“Let them know – don’t listen to these scams,” he said during a press conference on Friday, according to WCBS. “These individuals sit at home and have nothing else to do but think of a way to take advantage of our elderly.”
“I feel like – ‘Gotcha!’ ” Jean told WCBS. “So many people fall for this, and you only hear about it on the other end after they’ve lost $8,000.”