Scammers claim to be imprisoned grandson, take 77-year-old Palm Bay man for $4K

PALM BAY, Fla. — A 77-year-old Palm Bay man was out $4,000 Wednesday after falling victim to scammers who pretended to be his 18-year-old grandson.

Billy Ray Champ remembers the phone call that set the scheme off.

“He sounded like my grandson,” Champ said. “He said, ‘Papa, I need your help. Help me if you can.’”

The person on the other end of the line told the 77-year-old that he got into a car with a stranger and as the two were discussing a fictitious lottery win, police showed up and found two kilos of cocaine in the car.

The man pretending to be Champ’s grandson said he’d been arrested and at that point someone identifying himself as a Palm Bay Police Officer got on the phone.

“He said his name was John Anderson,” Champ said. “So he got on there, he said, ‘I’m from the Palm Bay Police Department and it’s going to cost $4,000 to get (your grandson) out on bond before he goes to court.”

He was told he could make the payment with four $1,000 Walmart gift cards.

Champ purchased the gift cards and read the serial numbers to the scammers over the phone, thinking he was getting his grandson out of jail.

“About 4 o’clock, here comes my grandson pulling up in the driveway,” Champ said. “I asked him, ‘Have you been to the police department?’ He said, ‘Papa, I don’t even know where the police station is.’”

The Palm Bay Police Department said Champ is one of two elderly residents recently targeted by scammers.

Gift cards cannot be used to pay a person’s bond, officials said.