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September 25, 2013

NEWS AND TRIBUNE LETTERS — For Sept. 25

Resident warns of phone scam

On a recent day, I received a phone call at noon from one of my grandsons. He said, “Hi grandpa, this is ‘Bill.’ What are you doing?” This is one of his usual greetings.

I said to him that he sounded funny, like he was on a speaker phone. He said he was in a car wreck and was in a holding cell. He said a friend took him for a ride in his new car and had a wreck. The police found marijuana in his trunk, and they wound up in jail.

I asked if he had called his dad and he said he didn’t want his dad to know about it. He would need $1,800 to get out on bail. He gave the phone to his lawyer, Arthur Hill, who told me where and how to send the money, via Moneygram. He said there would be a $160 fee for the transaction.

I asked to talk to my grandson, but he said he was taken away for a drug test and if he passed, then they would believe that he was not involved.

I asked where they were and he said that I asked a lot of questions for such a serious situation and that expedience was required to get the job done. He told me to draw the cash out of the bank, go to Walmart and send the money to a person named Latoya Johnson and to call him when they money was sent.

My concern was that my grandson just started a new job, having left his previous job five days ago. If he did not show up for work, he would probably be terminated, and that would be disastrous. As I left the house, I briefly told my wife the situation and said, “I hope this is not a scam.”

 I went to the bank and drew out the cash and tried to call my grandson’s cell phone. No answer; I went to Walmart and tried to call him again, before I sent the money. No answer. I sent the money and called Arthur Hill at 12:30 p.m. He said he would call me back in 1 1/2 hours to advise me of the situation. I pleaded with him to get my grandson out in time to go to work.

 I had many doubts, such as when did he have time to do this, to get a lawyer so quickly, why was bail required when he was not charged and a few other concerns. However, my heart overruled all those because of my concern for my grandson’s job.

 When I returned home, I sent my grandson an email and asked him to call me ASAP, and he did without delay. He said none of the above was true. I told him what I had done and that I had sent the money. He chewed me out, saying I should have known better.

His dad came over and said I should try to get the money back. I said that it was impossible, but I called Walmart and was told to contact Moneygram. I called Moneygram and explained the situation to them and gave them the transaction receipt number. I was told to go to Walmart to obtain a refund.

 I did receive the refund including the fee. The scammers were slow to claim their loot.

The phone number “the attorney” gave me had a Montreal area code. The phone number he called me on was from a communication service. My son called the police in Montreal and I called the sheriff, who sent a deputy out and got all the information and data that I had.

Some of the thoughts that reduced the possibility of a scam were:

1. How did he know how to pronounce my last name? No person in a 100,000 could say it perfectly without prior knowledge.

2. How did he know I was Bill’s grandfather?

3. How did he get my phone number?

My concern for my family overrode any and all concerns.

These people are clever and get a lot of information from social networks and eavesdropping on calls. How did he assume that I would not be able to contact my grandson?

Also, they don’t ask for huge sums of money.

 He even called me back , but I made a grievous error. I told him that he and his partner will wind up in jail. I should not have done that, and his partner may have been apprehended when she came to pick up the money.

A friend of mine had the exact same kind of call the other day regarding her nephew, but she disregarded it because she didn’t like him to start with.

I am an 83-year-old man with advanced college degrees and have held responsible positions in industry and should have know better, but my family is my most important asset.

Please publish this to save someone else some grief. They might not be fortunate enough get away, scam-free.

— Paul Juhasz, Georgetown

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