Money Scam Strikes a Fourth Time

7 years 1 week 5 days ago Thursday, December 02 2010 Dec 2, 2010 Thursday, December 02, 2010 6:45:02 PM CST December 02, 2010 in News
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COLUMBIA - Columbia police said Thursday they are seeing an old scam return to the area, attempting to bilk elderly people out of thousands of dollars. Police said an intended victim got a call from one of the scam artists on Monday, but realized it was a scam and contacted police. Police said this is the fourth money scam in the last month and a half, all of which they believe to be related. That's because all four scams have the same basic premise. The caller either pretends to be the resident's grandson or says he's the grandson's attorney.  In all four cases, the grandson is in some sort of trouble and needs money to get out of it.  The phone number used has a Canadian area code.

Eighty-six-year-old Theo Botts lost more than $3,000 in the scam in October.  A man calling himself Jason Alexander called Botts saying her grandson Rick was in Montreal, Canada, and that he needed more than $3,000.  The man claimed to be the grandson's lawyer.  "Alexander" said Rick Botts got into an accident in a rental car and owed more than $3,000 immediately, otherwise he would have to spend the night in jail.  Then another man got on the phone and pretended to be the grandson.  He said he might sound funny because he had a cold, but that he needed the money and knew he could count on his grandmother.  "Alexander" then got back on the phone and told the woman to go to wire the money through Western Union.  Botts doesn't drive, so she called her sister and she picked her up.  They went to Check 'n Go on East Nifong Boulevard and wired the money. 

"Alexander" called Botts again the next day.  He said Rick owed another $3,600 to the city of Montreal because he damaged a city light post in the accident.  Botts again went to Check 'n Go to wire the money, and the same employee from the day before waited on her.  The employee got suspicious and told Botts she thought she was being scammed.  Botts did not wire the money a second time and instead called her daughter, Rick's mother.  The daughter told Botts she had just talked to Rick and that he was fine.  That is the point when Botts knew she had been scammed. 

Columbia police said people shouldn't get embarrassed if they fall victim to a scam because it can happen to anyone.  They said scammers are con artists and are very good at what they do. 

Officials said if this happens to you, you should write down the phone number of the call and then immediately hang up.  Then call your family member to confirm it's a scam, and then call police.

Botts said she had many reasons to believe the scammer was telling the truth because he already knew information about her and her family, like her grandson's name.  Botts also said her son does a lot of traveling, so it wasn't out of the ordinary for him to be in Canada.

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