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Elderly targeted in caller scam

By Staff | Oct 8, 2008

In times of economic crisis, scam artists seem to come out of the woodwork. Invariably, their focus seems to be on the elderly.

That was the case Monday when an elderly woman who was a customer at a Bank Plus branch came in to withdraw $4,600 in cash, according to Ron Menendez, assisant vice president at Bank Plus in Estherville. When she was asked what she wanted the money for, she said she was “on a mission.” She brought back the money the next morning.

The woman said she had received a phone call and a young man said he was her grandson, that he was in Canada, and that had been in a car accident and needed money because his insurance was not valid there. The woman asked the man which grandson he was and he said, “Your favorite one.” When the woman said all her grandsons were her favorites, he said he was her oldest grandson.

The man then told the woman not to tell anyone but that she was to bring the money to the nearest Walmart and send a money gram and to call him back in two hours when she had a reference number.

While driving to the Walmart in Fairmont, the woman began questioning the situation. When she related the story to a woman who worked at Walmart, the employee told her that another elderly woman had sent money two or three times to Canada last week.

“It’s a new scam,” Menendez said. “We’ve never heard of this one before.” Menendez said.Ahortly after the incident involving the womnan that the bank received an alert that the same scam was happening throughout Iowa as well as in other states.

It’s just because of scams such as this that Bank Plus employees are trained to ask what people need money for when they withdraw large sums, Menendez said. Bank employees are looking out for the customer.

“We’ve actually had people get angry at us when we ask them what they want the money for,” Menendez said.

What is despicable about the scam is that they are appealing to people’s sympathies.

“They’re playing on emotions by saying it’s a relative,” Menendez said.

People should avoid responding to such calls and also avoid giving out any additional information about themselves. It’s also a good idea to contact your local bank and the police and report suspected scams.