Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

October 24, 2013

Scamming the scammer

By Doris Butt
Daily News

---- — “Grandma.”

“Jacob?”

“Grandma, I’m in trouble. I was in Canada with my friend and I got put in jail for drunk driving. Can you help me?”

“Well, you learned a lesson,” I thought. I now noticed his voice wasn’t right, but I am not used to talking with him on the phone, so that seemed a natural response.

However, as I finished saying the words, red lights started flashing. Scam. Scam. Scam.

The real grandson Jacob, 16, is at high school no doubt daydreaming of getting his license.

The voice pleaded, “Can you help me, Grandma? I’m in big trouble.” And then he added in a hushed voice, “Don’t tell anyone.”

That is when I decided to hang in there and see what happened.

My “grandson” went on to plead his case and expressed concern that I would tell his parents. Then he explained to me his “legal aid” would call me and give me all the details.

After I hung up, I went into action. I made a quick call to my son, Jacob’s father. We had a good laugh. Next, I checked 411 reversed phone number I found on our phone. No results. I called the Sheriff’s Department and a deputy returned my call. We discussed how the scam works. They receive about a complaint a week and are impossible to trace. I mentioned that I just might have a little sport with the “legal aid.” The deputy said, “Go for it.”

Sure enough, within minutes, I received a call from a gentleman who said he was Erich (with an H) Romowitzky of 411 Haman Avenue, St. John’s Newfoundland, Canada. He would be most happy to take care of Jacob’s problem. “I will need you to Western Union me $881.74. No, let me check again. Oh, it’s $881.84.” He made it sound so casual. “Are you able to do that?”

“Will Jacob get out of jail,” I tried to say with great concern.

“Yes, if you send me the money order, we will have him out of jail in two hours.” Then he went on to tell me how to send money via Western Union and asked how long it would take. I told him it would take me about two hours. He said he would call me back for the routing number of the money.

I immediately hustled to a Western Union service desk where Cheryl and Derek helped me make a fake but official sounding Western Union routing number. They related that it is not unusual to have people convinced there is a real need come in to send money under such circumstances. They also gave me Western Union’s number to report the fraud, thinking maybe they could get some information when he tried to collect.

Within an hour, I received the call. “Were you able to send the money?”

I gave him the fake number. He closed by saying that Jacob would call within the hour.

Did I scam the scammer? I sure hope so. I could just see him with a big smile on his face, headed out the door to collect his money feeling satisfied he had just landed another sucker. Not this grandma.

The story goes on.

I called Western Union and was connected with the fraud department where a gentleman who could only say over and over, “We don’t send money with a fake routing number.” He couldn’t begin to comprehend that I was trying to stop a fraud. I hung up when I began to talk like Judge Judy to him.

Last, I researched the number on the internet of the St. John’s Newfoundland police – or as they say, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. I was connected with their Fraud Department. Surprise, there was no such address.

If I understand correctly, the scammers call from a number that has been disconnected so they can make calls out without being traced. Once they get the routing number of the Western Union money, they can be anywhere in the world to claim the money. And beware, once you fall for a scam, you will get on a list where you will get numerous calls. She gave me a website where you can check on the latest scams, www.phonebuster.com.

Yes, I had an exciting afternoon, hopefully scamming the scammer. I don’t think there will be any repercussions, like flying missiles from Nigeria headed my way. But if you hear a loud boom around our place, you will know the scammer scammed the scammer’s scammer.

You all beware out there.