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It starts innocently enough. My mom’s phone rings and she picks it up.
Then my phone rings at work. I pick it up.
When I hear my mom’s voice on the other end say, “Julie, it’s your mother,” my stomach drops to my feet. She never calls me at work unless it’s urgent. Also, it’s 15 minutes before closing time. The fact that she can’t wait 15 minutes until I’m done with my work day really says something.
“Hi, Mom. What’s going on?” I ask.
“I don’t know what to do,” she says. Now my stomach has gone past the soles of my feet and is sinking through the floor.
“What happened?” I ask.
Mom tells me that one of my brother’s kids called her in a panic. She told Mom that she’d been at a wedding with a friend and when it came time to leave, the friend was too drunk to drive. So, she drove. Still, she got into an accident, smashing her face against the steering wheel and breaking her nose. The police came and told her she needed to take a breathalyzer test, but she couldn’t take one due to her broken nose. She said that she was in a jail for refusing the breathalyzer and that she needed bail money but was too scared to call her father.
“It’s a fake! Don’t worry!” is my immediate reply. I’d read about similar scams to this one.
Mom says, “But it was her voice! She was crying, but I know her voice. She said someone from FedEx will be by to pick up the money for bail. They wanted cash.”
“I don’t know what to do. I got the money out of the bank, but this seems really weird.”
“You got the money out of the bank?!!? You have it with you right now?”
By this time my heart is hammering.
“Yes. She said get the money out before a lawyer calls to tell me when FedEx is coming.”
“Did you call her back to double-check if this is fake?”
“Of course. I called but there’s no answer.”
“Hmmmm. . . I’ll send a text. Maybe she’s in class and can’t pick up,” I say as I type. “Hang on.”
Moments later, the return text comes through. “No, I haven’t been in an accident! Why?????”
“Someone’s trying to rip off your grandmother. Talk later,” I text back.
“She’s fine,” I tell my mom. “Don’t answer the door and don’t give anyone any money.”
“I wasn’t going to give anyone any money anyway. I was going to ask the lawyer where I could bring it instead.”
Is that worse or better? I’m not even sure.
Mom doesn’t live alone, so that’s good. The bank is closed for the night by the time we finish talking, but as soon as the bank opens in the morning, my built-like-a-brick-privy brother accompanies her to deposit the money back.
This isn’t my usual slice-of-funny column, but it’s something I want to address. My mom isn’t an easy mark. She’s savvy and never picks up the phone if she doesn’t recognize the number. Trouble is, the call came from the number of her granddaughter. That throws her. What really throws her is the voice on the other end of the phone, which somehow sounds exactly like her granddaughter. Power of suggestion? Maybe. But one never knows. Scammers can match numbers, can they somehow get a voice match, too?
One area where the crook went wrong is when she said she was afraid to call her father. Her father is the first person she’d call. He’s the first person I’d call. If you knew him, he’d be the first person you’d call! I guess no scam is completely perfect. This one comes disturbingly close, though.
So, please be careful when you answer your phone. They say there’s a sucker born every minute. Unfortunately, there’s a scammer born every second.
Juliana Gribbins is a writer who believes that absurdity is the spice of life. Her book Date Expectations is winner of the 2017 Independent Press Awards, Humor Category and winner of the 2016 IPPY silver medal for humor. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read
Juliana Gribbins is the Columnist for Zip06. Email Juliana at .