My wife and I are rational and well informed individuals with a combined one hundred thirty years of experience living as married adults. We pay attention to events and circumstances that have the potential for adversely affecting our lives. So, how did it come about we were “scammed” for TWO THOUSAND AND 00/100 DOLLARS yesterday?
This is the story.
Yesterday, my wife responded to a ring of the house phone and, seeing “caller identification” fail to display an acceptable name, she ended the attempt to connect. It seemed a “junk call”; one of many we are subjected to each day. The phone immediately rang again. When a second, immediately repeated, call is received by us, we generally take the call because of the slight chance it may be important. The caller identified himself as a Las Vegas drug enforcement officer. He proceeded to inform her that our son was in involved in a drug bust, but had been exonerated and two thousand dollars was needed to enable his release from the court house. It was stated our son would remain in custody until the money was received. When my wife expressed doubts about the story, our “son” came on the line and proceeded, with much weeping, to plead the money be sent. My wife, in spite of being a very capable and rational person with intimate knowledge of our son’s voice and the blatant improbability of the scenario, succumbed to the manufactured emotions of the moment. She was then cautioned to not reveal what was happening, to anyone, including family members. The caller then directed my wife to drive to our bank and withdraw two thousand dollars from our account. She tried to withdraw the money but was thwarted by the daily withdrawal limit. She then went inside the bank and made the withdrawal in cash as directed. As per her instructions, she went the the CVS pharmacy and purchased four Apple I-tunes gift cards, each for five hundred dollars. She received another phone call and instructed to uncover the card numbers and read them to the caller. She complied. She was then told she would receive a call the next day at nine o’clock in the morning.
We reside in a “cozy”, 1955 era tract home and it is impossible to maintain “secrecy” for long. I became aware of “out-of-character” behavior by my wife soon after the first call was received. I asked her to explain what was going on and she responded by telling me to not ask any questions and she would explain all the next day. I reluctantly let the matter drop. The call expected at nine o’clock came at eight. Immediately upon receiving the call, my wife went to our bedroom and closed the door. Not long after the door closed, her muted voice became louder and it became clear she was becoming agitated and sounded fearful of something being said to her. I went to her and asked her what was going on. I took control of the phone and asked the caller to identify himself. He gave me a vague and wholly unsatisfactory reply. The caller attempted to intimidate me by using aggressive and coarse rhetoric and I terminated the call. The emotions of the preceding twenty four hours then took the inevitable toll on my wife. I was sure, as I am now, we were the victims of a group of very skilled and heartless con artists!
My reasoning which has led to the writing of this Blog is simple: This can happen to anyone! We are all vulnerable in spite of our self-images of being rational and well informed individuals. I believe the appropriate response is the telling of this story to the widest possible audience. Sunshine kills vermin!
I want to acknowledge the apparent attempts by the employees of the Union Bank and CVS Pharmacy to intervene in what they may have recognized as an ongoing scam being played out. The Union Bank teller attempted to ascertain if my wife was a scam victim. My wife seems to have brushed aside the questions put to her by the teller and this left the teller with the sole option of completing the withdrawal. The CVS clerk did the same with the same result. My wife told the clerk the gift cards were gifts for our grandchildren.
The scam artists skillfully manipulated the maternal instincts of my wife (only the sound of my son’s voice convinced her it was truly a scam), effectively isolated her with the success of the demand for secrecy, convinced her our son was in a bad place and only she could secure our son’s release, told her a story made more plausible by the assertion our son was only an unlucky bystander in the drug bust, and played the “we are the police” card with vigor. For my part, I failed to heed my instincts about my wife’s behavior, out of misplaced concern for her privacy, and was easily mollified by the promise of a complete explanation on the morrow. I did not associate what was being played out in our home as a scam in progress.
We have made a police report and our story now joins the many other similar stories that memorialized as 1’s and 0’s reposing in the national crime data base. Our money is gone forever. We are emotionally OK, but feel chagrined by our response to the obvious scam as it was being played out. No action is possible that will ameliorate the harm done. The phones are not traceable, the bank is without blame, the pharmacy is without blame, The Apple Website makes it clear the money used to buy the I-tunes gift card will not be refunded. The Apple website is completely opaque as regards my attempt to bring this matter to Apple’s attention.
The Old Machinist