SALEM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Paula and Bill Foster are 71 and worked hard to save money. But the Salem couple said a clever con man gained their trust and they are now out nearly $200,000.
Members of law enforcement said it’s a new twist on an old ploy.
How it began
In May, the Fosters were contacted by someone who said Bill Foster was awarded a government grant that would furnish them with $300,000 on debit cards they could personally use — once they paid some upfront fees.
The Fosters communicated with men by the names of Harry, Joe Williams and Jordan Smith, they said. The men talked with the Fosters so often, they said, they began calling them Mom and Dad.
The upfront fees were to be paid using MoneyPak cards. Their website describes MoneyPak as “an easy and convenient way to send money to where you need it.” MoneyPak cards are available at retail outlets nationwide.
Once the fees were paid, the Fosters were told, they would receive their personal-use debit cards.
So far, the couple said they’ve paid more than $150,000 to Jordan Smith on untraceable MoneyPak cards. When KOIN 6 News first visited the Fosters, Jordan Smith had just called asking for another $5,000 in order to release the money.
“He had called me and asked if I had the money. I said not yet. He calls me a lot,” Bill Foster said. “The main reason is getting the MoneyPak cards and paying him.”
“Supposedly, most of the money we gave them was refundable,” he said.
“I tried to explain to my husband that I didn’t think that it was right,” said Paula. “I thought it was a scam, but he believed in him.”
Better Business Bureau contacted
Paula contacted the Better Business Bureau of Alaska, Oregon and western Washington.
“On the surface, these government scams are very easy to catch,” said David Quinlan, the Senior Director of Public Relations and Community Outreach.
“You wonder, gosh, who in the world would fall for this? The tricky part, and the new twist is just the delivery,” said Quinlan. “These scammers are sophisticated.”
The BBB said those grants don’t exist.
“They are dangerous folks, they really are and they will stop at nothing to rip you off,” said Quinlan.
Quinlan said they’ve had at least 77 scams involving government grants logged into their “scheme record” from January through late July.
A member of the FBI also told KOIN 6 News it sounded like a scam.
KOIN 6 News spoke with Jordan Smith, who said the grant was awarded to Bill Foster because he was a good taxpayer.
“Mr. Joe say to me he was a good taxpayer and he do not have any criminal record under his name, that is why governments are writing some benefits,” Jordan Smith said.
When asked directly if this was some sort of scam, Jordan Smith denied that it was and responded, “I am working for the government department.”
During the conversation, Jordan Smith described his job in the following ways:
“I am working for the government department.”
“I’m not from the government department, I am a broker.”
“I’m working for Mr. Joe.”
“I am an appointed officer who is working for Mr. Foster.”
“I am an officer who is working for several companies.”
Paula Foster told KOIN 6 News her son saw warning signs and got Jordan Smith to admit that it was not his real name.
But when KOIN 6 News asked, he replied, “I’m sorry, ma’am, you cannot ask those kind of questions to me.”
“My name is Jordan Smith. I don’t know why my name is Jordan Smith. You don’t have the authority to ask me.”
When asked where his office was located, he said, “You do not have to worry. I am not in another country. I am also in Oregon, in Dexter. So I will give it to him (Bill Foster), all his money.”
However, KOIN 6 News could find no such call centers located in Dexter.
Finally, Jordan Smith told Bill Foster that KOIN 6 News would be able to verify his name – only after the $5,000 was paid.
“You can verify after you completing the procedure to receive your money,” Jordan Smith said.
After the KOIN 6 News interview, Bill Foster was still on the fence whether to pay the $5,000.
“Well, it’s hard to say because I believe Jordan,” said Bill. “I don’t believe Harry or Joe, but I believe Jordan.”
“We’ve gotten into a lot of fights about it, but I still end up giving him the money,” Paula Foster told KOIN 6 News. “I still love him, even though he fell for this.”
Bill Foster decided to give Jordan Smith the $5,000.
Paula Foster said the promised money wasn’t delivered. Instead, she said, Jordan Smith asked for another $2,000.
“There is probably around $200,000 in these cards and it makes me feel really bad because we’re 71 years old and that was our savings and it’s gone,” Paula Foster said.
“I cry a lot. Like right now.”