Deltona grandmother loses $50K in phone scam

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A 78-year-old Deltona grandmother lost more than $50,000 to scammers in what authorities are calling the "grandparent scam."

The scam involves someone calling the victim and pretending to be a grandchild in serious trouble.

The Volusia County Sheriff's Office said the fake grandchild asks for money to be sent to him or her in another country or state where the person was supposedly arrested or in a car crash.

Officers said once the money is sent by wire transfer, it disappears and so does the scammer.

Then, the victim later finds out that the real grandchild was never in trouble or even in the place the money was sent to.

In the Deltona woman's case, she received the first in a series of calls in June from a distraught man, claiming to be her grandson. He said that he was in a car versus house accident, and that he was in jail. Authorities said the man told the woman he needed $5,000 to post bail.

She said he was crying so hard, so she could barely recognize his voice, not realizing that was because it wasn't him.

The victim sent the money through wire transfer to South America, where the incident allegedly happened.

Over the next couple of weeks she got more phone calls from the fake grandson's lawyer asking for more money to cover mounting legal expenses and to compensate the homeowner whose house was damaged.

"When did you realize this was a scam?" asked Channel 9's Tim Barber.

"Yesterday. I was suspicious all along, but you know, I don't know, it was like I didn't want to listen to any of the signs," the grandmother said.

Finally, she called her grandson directly and learned that he wasn't the one who had called her.

"He says, ‘Grandma, that wasn't me!’" she said.

The total amount she paid by the time she discovered she was being scammed was $55,500, authorities said.

In a separate recent case, authorities said an 82-year-old grandmother from New Smyrna Beach reported that she had received a call from a man claiming to be her grandson. He said that he had been in an accident and arrested for driving under the influence in New York.

The victim told deputies that the man's voice sounded exactly like her actual grandson's and so she believed the caller. The man asked for $1,800 to pay legal fees.

The victim said she relayed the money order information to a woman claiming to be the grandson's attorney. Later that day, the victim contacted her grandson directly to see how he was doing and learned that he had never been in New York.
Investigators said the scammers will pressure the victim to act quickly because of the emergency nature of the fake crash or arrest.