SILVER SPRING, Md. - Two con artists targeting the elderly used the “grandparent scam” to swindle $5,000 each from two seniors in Montgomery County over the past two weeks.
Joyce Thomas was one of those victims and said the caller was so convincing she was sure her grandson Jonathan was calling to say he was in trouble and needed help.
The caller, pretending to be Jonathan, told Thomas he had been in a crash and someone was injured. The scammer said he was in jail and needed money to make bail.
"I said, 'Is this Jonathan?' And I used that name and he said, 'Yes.' And I said, 'What's wrong?' And he said, 'Oh I am really in trouble and I am really sorry to call, but I really need your help.' He said, 'I was in a car accident and I was speeding and I went through a red light and I accidentally hit another car and the other person in the car was hurt really badly so they put me in jail,'" Thomas described. "I said, 'Oh my goodness. Where are you?' And he said, 'the county jail,' he said the word county and I didn't go back and ask him which county and what not."
The caller had put her in touch with a man claiming to be a public defender, who then put her in touch with a so-called bail bondsman who gave Thomas the information she needed to wire the $5,000.
She was told to go to a Bank of America and was given the name of a business and an account. It was all business for a few hours until Thomas called her grandson's cellphone to see if he had been released from jail.
"And he answers the phone and I am like, 'What happened? Where are you?' and he says, 'What do you mean?' And I said, 'Somebody called and said you were in jail.' And he said, 'Oh no, that was a scam. I'm in church.'"
Thomas said the scammers keyed in on her natural instincts to help and played on her emotions. Her advice to other seniors who may face this kind of scam is to ask for details.
Authorities have been able to trace the account Thomas sent the money to and have put a freeze on it, but getting her money back may be another matter entirely.