Authorities warn grandparents how to avoid scam after Omaha-metro victims lose $64,000

(Associated Press)
Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 9:40 PM CDT
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SCRIBNER, Neb. (WOWT) - A staggering amount of money has been scammed from senior citizens in the area these past few days: so far, five victims in three counties have lost a total of $64,000 in a scam targeting area grandparents.

6 News found there’s a new twist: an unwitting accomplice.

A convincing call that a granddaughter needs bond money fooled Brenda’s 86-year-old mother who sent scammers $13,000.

“They told her to put it in something that to where it didn’t feel like cash in the mailer. And again, another red flag,” Brenda said.

The same instructions were given to another set of grandparents, and a stranger picked up the package and drove away.

“So I handed over the envelope with the money in it and he was going across the street down there, and I thought, ‘Oh my God. What did I do?’ ”

In another case in Dodge County, authorities stop a courier in the driveway of a senior citizen’s home. It turns out, the courier was an unsuspecting Uber driver, sent to a location where a scam victim had stuffed thousands of dollars into a package he was to pick up.

The app listed the customer’s name as “Mr Shady.” The driver said “Mr Shady” would meet him an Omaha restaurant parking lot.

“It’s not the idea that any of the drivers would have a clue what’s really going on. We’re pretty naïve when it comes to picking up a package and delivering it,” the driver said.

Police believe the Uber driver is an unsuspecting pawn.

“In this case the Uber or Lyft driver is transporting that envelope to different location where they’re meeting another person so it’s changing hands three or four times then we believe it’s getting put in the mail,” Hooper Police Chief Matt Schott said.

Brenda said a phony lawyer and pretend granddaughter called her 86-year-old mother 18 times.

“She was just so worried about my daughter being in an accident. She was upset, and then the girl crying on the phone telling her, ‘Please don’t call my mom — please,’ ” Brenda said.

She said the grandparent scammers know how tugging on heartstrings often leads to purse strings.

“They told her on the phone not to say anything when she went to the bank,” Brenda said.

How to avoid falling for this scam

If the scammers send a stranger to pick up the money, that’s a red flag. They often call back and demand more cash be mailed to them.

The scammers will want victims to withdraw money without telling anyone why, and even tell them to lie to bankers who might ask about the reason for the withdrawal.

Loved ones should instruct grandparents to call them first if they receive such a request, even if the scammers claim it will hurt the case against a grandchild.

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