Carson City couple avoids bail scam
Barbara and Marlin Hancock were moments away from sending bail money to their jailed nephew in Canada on Thursday morning when suddenly it hit them.
Why would they have to use a Moneygram to do that?
“They wanted me to go to the Moneygram at Walmart and send $2,836 and $2 for a service fee,” Barbara Hancock said of the directions she received from a woman who claimed to be a defense attorney in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
The Hancocks received the call about 9 a.m. informing them that their adult nephew had been arrested. The caller said police found marijuana in his car after a traffic stop.
Because their nephew was willing to testify against his friends, Canadian police were going to release him – if his aunt and uncle paid the bail money, the alleged defense attorney said. She said she would call back later to receive the receipt number for the Moneygram.
Both Barbara and Marlin admitted they almost fell for it after a convincing 20-minute conversation in which they thought they had spoken to their crying nephew, a police officer and the nephew’s attorney.
But once they hung up, the couple began to question the directions.
Barbara got on the phone and began to make calls. Ninety minutes later she reached a clerk at the Kingston Police Department in Ontario and found out the truth – it was all a scam. Once they sent the money, someone somewhere would pick it up and disappear.
The Hancocks were in the midst of a scam that’s hit every state in the U.S. and bilked hundreds if not thousands of people, mostly elderly, out of their hard-earned savings, said Carson City Sheriff’s Detective Bob Motamenpour.
“A lot of people have fallen for this, this is one of the newest scams around town,” said Motamenpour, who specializes in fraud cases. “I’ve probably seen at least 10 in the past year here. One older (local) couple did fall for it for pretty much the same amount, between $2,400 to $2,500. Someone called and said their grandkid was in jail.”
Barbara said the story sounded so plausible because her nephew was going on a trip to Washington, D.C., and he could have taken a side trip to Canada.
“Then we got to thinking,” she said.
When the alleged attorney called back for the receipt number, Barbara rattled off a series of numbers from the top of her head. Then she feigned she was having difficulty seeing without her glasses.
“She told me to get my glasses,” Barbara recalled. “And I said, ‘Well I’m 81 years old and I wasn’t born yesterday, so good luck with your scam’ and hung up.”
She said just before pulling the receiver away from her ear, she heard the impostor gasp.
“It was fun,” said Barbara of her narrow escape. “I hope (my story) keeps somebody else from getting stuck.”
Motamenpour said there’s little local law enforcement can do to track down the con artists.
“We can’t investigate. We don’t have the ability. A lot of these crimes’ points of reception are out of the country. What do you think the chances are that somebody in (a foreign) police department would help us?” he said. “At a local level there’s very little we can do. By the time we even have some idea of the location, they have closed shop and gone somewhere else.”
And, said Motamenpour, for the FBI to get involved it would have to be a large amount of money.
“People need to realize as soon as the money is gone, it’s gone. There is no way to get it back,” he said.