ALBANY -- An 88-year-old Albany woman said she didn't find anything odd about her grandson Jim calling her and asking for help. Apparently "Jim" had gotten into some trouble and needed some financial help from his grandmother.
The only problem was the person on the other end of the phone line wasn't the grandmother's beloved Jim at all, he was a con artist looking for a score.
Sgt. Michael Persley, the investigator currently working the case of the 88-year-old grandmother, who asked not to be identified, said during an interview with The Albany Herald that scams like the one the Albany woman described may not be on the rise but people are reporting them more to police.
"People need to continue to report these types of crimes; there is no need to be embarrassed or to feel foolish," said the investigator.
Persley said the 88-year-old was the victim of a scam that has been dubbed the "Grandson Scam," and he said he believes the suspect who conned the Albany woman had probably known her grandson.
"Everything that happened was too coincidental," he said. "Someone her grandson had met overseas might have gotten information -- enough to sound like her grandson."
Indeed, the 88-year-old told an Albany Herald reporter one of the reasons she was not more cautious about helping the caller was because he sounded like her grandson and even knew Jim's nickname for her.
"He had both my phone numbers -- my cell and my home number -- and he called me 'Mimi,' which is what my grandson calls me," said the victim.
The grandmother said the caller, disguised as her grandson, told her he had gotten a D.U.I. while in Spain and he needed $3,800 for bail, but then later called back and asked for only $2,800, which she sent.
When the 88-year-old asked her "grandson" why he didn't call his parents, he said that they were not answering the phones because they were moving, which they were.
"My daughter and my son-in-law were moving at the time, and it made sense that he wouldn't be able to get ahold of them," she said.
It was only after the grandmother called her daughter that she realized she had been scammed. Jim's parents told her that her grandson doesn't even drink and was not in Spain.
"I feel like a fool for doing it," she said. "I had that money to that rascal with the hour."
Persley said it is important for persons to be alert when they receive a call from a person asking for money.
"If you can get a callback number, then we can contact law enforcement wherever the call was made from," he said. "People need to ask a lot of questions and try to determine if it really is their relative they are talking to."
Doyt Brown said he has come across a mail scam that he believes, like the "Grandson Scam," targets the elderly.
The 72-year-old said he has received 28 letters in the last month from different companies offering him millions of dollars if he only signs a document and pays a minimal "processing fee."
"They are trying to get your signature for something, and they make it sound like you have already won something. I know a lot of people might think '$20 is not that much, I'll take my chances'," Brown said.
Brown said he receives letters from as far away as the Netherlands and Taiwan promising him a large amount of money.
The 72-year-old said scams like these prey on people who might be on fixed incomes or who are suffering through the economic downturn.
Unfortunately, Persley said sometimes the con artists are crafty enough to fool a victim, as in the 88-year-old grandmother's case.
The investigator said the woman will probably not be able to get her money back, but the grandmother said she doesn't mind too much.
"I'm not grieving about the money. I just don't want it to happen to anybody else," she said.