A police officer will never call a resident out of the blue asking them to bail out a relative. And they definitely won't ask anyone to wire money to Spain.
Port Chester police are warning residents to watch out for an insidious phone scam after an 83-year-old woman was swindled out of $2,400 when a man impersonating a police officer asked her to bail her grandson out of jail.
The victim, who lives on Halstead Avenue, was at home on Thursday when she received a call from a man who identified himself as a police officer named Bob Daniels. The fake officer quickly spun a tale that appealed emotionally to the senior: He told her that her grandson was a passenger in a car that was pulled over for speeding. Then he told her that police found a large stash of drugs in the car, and her grandson would be held in jail unless he posted $2,400 bail.
The con artists were probably banking on the fact that an elderly woman wouldn't notice some big warning signs. Among them: the "officer" called from the 514 area code, which is designated for Montreal, Canada, but told her the incident happened on an unspecified "Main Street" in North Caroliina, Lt. James Ladeairous said.
He also asked the victim to wire the "bail money" to an address in Barcelona, Spain.
The victim called her granddaughter, who fronted the $2,400 before wiring it out. Apparently not satisfied with bilking the victims out of the initial sum, the con artists later called back and said they needed an additional $2,400. The reason? The judge handling the case was strict, they said, and had raised the bail amount. When the victims finally became suspicious and began asking questions, the scammers hung up the phone. The line was disconnected when the victims tried to dial back, Ladeairous said.
Lending credibility to the scam in the victim's eyes was the fact that the con artists identified her grandson by his real name, and the fake officer handed the phone to another man who claimed to be the grandson. Ladeairous said police aren't sure if the thieves were simply playing a numbers game and relying on luck, or whether they had access to the victim's personal information for social engineering purposes.
Police believe other people in Port Chester and the surrounding area may have received similar calls, and they want to hear from victims or would-be victims.
"It's only when something goes wrong [and victims fall for the scam] that people report it to the police," Ladeairous said. "Maybe there are other people who are embarrassed to come forward."
Port Chester police want residents to be aware of the scam, and they're hoping for details from similar cases as they investigate.
"We'll never know how many people [were targeted] unless they come forward," Ladeairous said. "It would be a big help to let us know if this is going on."
Anyone with information on the scam can call the Port Chester Police Department at 914-939-1000. All calls will remain confidential.
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