WARREN, R.I. (WPRI) – Joan Jamrog thought her great nephew, a Marine, was in trouble.
“I received a phone call from the U.S. Embassy,” she recalled. “I swear I was talking with him. And he says, ‘please auntie, just don’t tell my dad.’ And I said, ‘OK. What’s the problem?'”
The person on the other end of the line told Jamrog a tale about a car crash in the Dominican Republic, drugs that were hidden in the vehicle and an arrest.
“I’m saying in my mind, ‘gosh he’s had seven years in the service. I can’t let him down!'”
So Jamrog agreed to wire more than $900 to bail her great nephew out of jail. When she went to a Western Union location, she was turned away.
“They brought out the manager and she says, ‘You’re being scammed.'”
“I said, ‘It can’t possibly be! I spoke with my nephew!'”
“She said, ‘Well, I can’t help you and I won’t help you because this is a scam.'”
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the so-called “grandparent scam,” or the “family emergency scam” preys on a person’s emotions. The scammer’s goal is to trick you into sending money before you realize it’s a scam.
Jamrog was still desperate to help her great nephew, so she found another Western Union location that allowed her to send the money. Then, the scammers demanded another $880 dollars to cover her great nephew’s flight back to the U.S.
“It takes a long time to save that up when you’re retired,” Jamrog said. “But he’s safe. That’s all that matters to me.”
“May they have no luck with the money they’ve taken,” she added.
Jamrog knows her money is gone for good, but there are ways to protect yourself from a similar situation, according to the FTC:
- Verify the caller’s identity by asking questions a stranger couldn’t possibly answer
- Check out the story with other family members, even if you’ve been sworn to secrecy
- Never wire money
- Report a suspected scam
Recently, the FTC announced a $586 million settlement with Western Union to resolve allegations that the company knew that scammers were using its money transfer system to steal money from victims of various scams for more than a decade. Western Union also pledged to strengthen its anti-fraud procedures.
According to the Better Business Bureau, 63 grandparent scams have been reported to the BBB Scam Tracker to date in 2017, costing victims a total of $28,5000.