An Ogden couple is hoping their story will prevent anyone else from feeling their heartache. They were taken by what police call the "grandparents scam."
When the phone rang in the middle of the night, Vernon and Alice Harper knew something was wrong. Alice said the caller told her, "Oh, I'm sorry, Grandma. I'm really sorry to do this to you." She said it sounded a little bit like he was crying. The caller told them, "I'm in trouble, Grandma. I'm up here in Toronto. I need money. I'm in jail. I had a rented car, and I wrecked it."
They thought the caller was their grandson, so Alice wired $4,400. The caller said his calling card only had a few minutes and he didn't have much time, but could she wire the money within two hours? He would call back in two hours to get the personal identification number.
Once Alice got to Wal-Mart to get the MoneyGram, she wanted to be safe about it, so she asked the clerk to tack on a security question, something only her grandson would know. But on the other end of the transaction, nobody asked her security question to the con artist. She had already given him the personal identification number, and that's all the clerk on the Canada end asked for. MoneyGrams use personal identification numbers instead of requiring ID to wire money. As long as you have the pin, you can get the money.
When she called her grandson the next day to make sure everything was OK, he didn't know what she was talking about. Alice said, "I called him and I said, ‘What time did you get home last night?' And he said, ‘Get home from where?'"
At first, Alice and Vernon thought whoever had scammed them must either know them or someone in their family. But now that they realize this is a well-known scam, they believe it is not anyone they know, just someone who did their homework.
What scares the Harpers is how much the voice on the other end of the phone sounded like their grandson's. They had no doubt it was him.
They aren't the first to be had. Experts say con artists target the elderly, and any time someone's asking for money, even if you think you know who it is, you have to make sure.
Alice Harper says two phone calls on her phone records would help in her case, but police in Utah don't have the jurisdiction to get the records from Comcast to look up those numbers. She says she and her husband are devastated, but hope that they can help others avoid this heartache.