A New Version of an Old Scam Targets Grandparents

NBC 7 Responds looked at the new way criminals are trying to convince people to hand over their money

NBC Universal, Inc.

There are many ways criminals try to convince you to part with your money. A common way is to say a family member is in trouble, or hurt, and needs cash immediately.

"It started with a phone call that was supposedly my granddaughter," said 84-year-old Lee Sherman. "She said she was talking on the telephone while driving and hit two cars."

On the phone, the fake granddaughter said she had lost her phone in the car accident and would be charged with reckless driving. The woman also told Sherman an attorney would contact him.

"I was scared as hell they were going to incarcerate her, do something, I wasn't sure," said Sherman.

Sherman lives in Canyon Lake, but his real granddaughter Haylie lives in Oceanside. Fifteen minutes later, he got a call from someone claiming to be her lawyer.

"He said he was going to talk to the judge and it looked like she may need bail money," said Sherman. "He called back about half-an-hour later and said it would be $14,000."

Wanting to help his granddaughter, Sherman didn't even give it a second thought. He drove straight to the bank where he took out $14,000 in cash.

"I just didn't want her hurt," said Sherman. "I didn't care about the money that much, I just wanted her safe."

What made this scam different, is that the man posing as Haylie's attorney said a courier would meet Sherman to personally receive the cash. Usually the criminals will ask for a money transfer or for gift card numbers. This time the two men met at a restaurant in Riverside County.

"Basically, I just hand him the money and that was the end of the story," said Sherman. "I just handed him the money like an idiot. I should have had papers to do something but I was pretty shaken up at that point."

A little while later, he decided to try and call his granddaughter's cell phone.

"I got on the phone with my grandfather and he was like, 'I didn't talk to you today?'" said Haylie Collier, Sherman's granddaughter. "I was instantly frustrated and so infuriated."

Collier, who works in Oceanside in real estate, immediately drove up to see him.

"He just kept saying to me 'I feel like such an idiot,'" said Collier. "I was saying, 'Don't feel that way. You were doing what you thought was right.' It was really hard to hear him say that."

Collier had been safe the entire time and had no idea someone was using her real name to steal from her grandfather.

"He's a great man and would do anything for his family," said Collier. "Now, he got put in that kind of situation."

The family immediately contacted law enforcement, but say there was nothing that could be done. Now, Sherman and Collier are trying to spread the word, to prevent this from happening to someone else.

"There are people who are this horrible that are really out there to take advantage of people in these situations," said Collier. "I feel bad for them, very bad for them, that they can do that."

Collier says she doesn't know how these people got her information or her grandfather's phone number, but likely it was online. She says people should be more mindful of how much personal information they are sharing online. Collier also says people should talk to their relatives and warn them about scams like this.

Sherman said the person pretending to be his granddaughter's lawyer even told him what to tell the bank. The teller warned him about scams like this one, but he had been told to say it was for home improvements.

"What do I think of the people?" asked Sherman. "I think they're no good b-------, that's what I think they are."

You can read more about these "family emergency scams" at the Federal Trade Commission's website here, and report any scam calls here.

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