A so-called “granny scammer” nearly succeeded in convincing two Durango residents to send a large sum of cash to save their beloved grandson.
Connie Young-Wactor, 79, recounted Friday how she and her husband were nearly vicitmized.
On Thursday night, Roy Wactor, 85, received a terrifying call on his cellphone from a man posing as his grandson, Neil.
“Grandpa, this is your grandson,” the voice said.
The impostor told Wactor, who is hard of hearing, that he was in trouble: He had gone to Atlanta, gotten drunk and, at that very moment, was sitting helpless in jail with a broken nose and jaw.
“Is this Neil?” Wactor asked, alarmed.
“Yes, this is Neil,” said the voice.
“Neil” said he was desperate but couldn’t turn to his wife or parents, and if his commanding officer found out what happened, he’d be dishonorably discharged from the military.
He said he needed Wactor to send $26,000 immediately so that he could bond out of jail.
At that point, Wactor’s wife, Connie Young-Wactor, entered the room.
“Thank goodness I did, or Roy probably would have gotten out my debit card and paid,” she said.
She told the man pretending to be their grandson that they weren’t going to send anyone $26,000 to get out of jail.
“Neil” said, “OK, how about $2,600?”
At that point, the panicked couple called Neil’s mother to ask whether Neil was in fact in trouble in Atlanta.
He wasn’t. He was on the base in Kansas City, Kansas.
Young-Wactor is warning other elderly Durango residents not to fall for this sort of scam.
“Both my husband and I are old, and we’re just targets with white hair,” she said. “We’re finding out what a scary world it is out there. For old people, it really just is scary.”
She said the emotional premise of the scam – preying on panicked grandparents who are desperate to help – was as potent as the execution was sophisticated. The scam artist knew not only their cellphone number and the fact that she and her husband had a grandson but that their grandson was in the military.
“How did he know that?” she said, before hanging up to call police.
Earlier this month, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office warned of a new twist to the “granny scam.”
Callers have begun demanding money be sent immediately to free a kidnapped relative. Callers threaten physical harm to the relative if the money is not delivered, according to a news release from the Attorney General’s Office.
Victims have been ordered to stay on the phone until the ransom money is wired. The requested ransom payments range from $600 to more than $1,900 and are often sent to a third party, the Attorney General’s Office said. Even after the payment is made, scammers have been known to claim it wasn’t received and demand additional funds.
“Coloradans should be vigilant in safeguarding themselves and their loved ones from these types of calls,” said Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. “It is important to talk to family members and older adults about imposter phone calls, how to recognize them and what they should do if they receive one. The thought of a kidnapped loved one is terrifying, but recipients of these calls must try to remain calm and levelheaded.”