When your grandson needs bail money, be careful

Here’s a true story. It happened last week to a friend. He’s a retired fed in his mid-70s and was at home trying to fight off a cold and prep for some upcoming surgery. Then the phone rings.

He answers it. Voice is familiar. “It’s your grandson, Jack,” the caller says. My friend, call him Gordon, is delighted. Jack is in college in Virginia. Then the call goes south.

Seems Jack had two glasses of wine (right, two) at lunch. Then gets pulled over. He fails the breathalyzer test. He’s going before a judge in a few hours. He needs to post bond. Jack says his court-appointed attorney would be calling with details. He does.

The attorney says Jack needs to pay $2,800 to the court. If he does, he can probably go home and won’t be brought into court in shackles. Gordon heads for the nearest CVS to give them cash to wire to the court in Fairfax, Virginia. Gordon lives in Bethesda, Maryland. First, he had to get cash from his bank. Then on to the money place.

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At the CVS, he has a hard time figuring out how the cash wire equipment works. Then he is told the limit, the most he can send is $2,000. He is told to go somewhere else that may have a higher limit. Meantime, the clock is ticking.

The grandson’s attorney calls again. Gordon says he isn’t going to make the deadline to wire the cash. “Not to worry,” the lawyer says, “We got a continuance.” Meaning he still had time to send in the money.

Then he called his son, who is Jack’s father. He’s surprised to get the call. Can you guess what’s coming?

“Jack is okay,” his father says. “It’s a scam!” Huh?

At what point did you realize it was probably a scam? Or did you assume it was the court calling? I didn’t interrupt when Gordon told me, but the part about wiring money to the court sounded a little hinky.

What is creepy is that Gordon said the person he first talked to sounded like his grandson Jack. Was he groggy from being slightly under the weather? Or had somebody recorded Jack’s voice? Or was it a “friend” who knew Jack had a grandfather in Maryland and knew his phone number? Could it have something to do with his being a retired fed whose data had been breached (and maybe sold later on), like thousands of other workers and retirees?

Lots of questions. No good answers. Except be very very careful, because phone scams, from fake bill collectors, fake IRS agents, fake cops, are on the rise.

After learning it was a con, Gordon called the cops. They said there was nothing they could do because there had been no crime. No money had changed hands. Still…

A word to the wise: If your grandson, daughter or a good friend calls you for bail money, and then the alleged court-appointed lawyer takes over, be very, very careful. Call the jail. Call the local cops. Call somebody. Don’t send them money.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Jory Heckman

One of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme victims was a professor who wrote a book about gullibility and scams.

Source: Denver Post

Read more of Mike Causey’s Federal Report