LONGVIEW, Wash. (KOIN 6) — According to the Longview Police Department, a 96-year-old woman was duped out of $5,000 after she fell for what’s commonly referred to as the “Grandparents Scam.”
What’s worse, the scammers told the Cowlitz County woman the money would bail her niece out of jail. Little did she know, the Safeway employee she went to for help would deceive her, too.
The victim didn’t want to be identified, but agreed to tell her story so that it doesn’t happen to other people.
“I’m sorry there are people in our society who take advantage of people as vulnerable as I am or anybody,” said the elderly victim.
She said the scammer pretended to be her niece and said, “I’m in trouble, I knew I could count on you.” A fake police officer even got on the line to demand she get $5,000 worth of pre-paid cards at her local Safeway and call him back with the numbers.
The cards didn’t work, police said, because the employee, John O’Malley, never processed the transaction. In surveillance video, O’Malley allegedly places the money on the floor and then in his pocket.
He faces first-degree theft charges, but is not currently listed in the Cowlitz County Jail roster. His whereabouts are unknown.
The Better Business Bureau says to be suspicious if you receive a telephone call where:
- A caller calls you from a far away location.
- The caller says, “It’s me,” or “It’s your niece,” or “It’s your favorite niece.”
- The caller is in some trouble or some type of distress.
- The caller asks for money to be wire transferred.
If you receive such a call, the Better Business Bureau advises that you get the identity and location of the caller, stay calm and avoid acting out of a sense of urgency and don’t wire money unless you’ve identified with an independent third party that someone is in trouble.
In addition, never give out personal identifying information. It’s a lesson the victim in this case said she learned and wants to pass on to others.
“There were many things I could have said to deter all of this as it progressed,” she said.
Police said they were able to get the victim’s money back, a rarity in cases like this one.
Longview police said the scam call originated from Toronto, Canada.