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Lodi woman narrowly avoids possible scam

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Posted: Friday, August 23, 2013 12:00 am

A Lodi woman was sure her grandson needed her help — so sure that she was ready to send him $1,400 in order to bail him out of a jail in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. Fortunately for the woman, a Western Union employee spotted the scam before the money ended up in the hands of thieves.

While she avoided a scam, police say that not everybody does.

“I have heard of it before,” Lodi Police Cpl. Bobby Amin said. “And (these thieves) are impossible to track down because they’re never around the corner.”

Scams come in all forms. And typically they can fool the victim and appear legitimate by using some of the victim’s personal information.

That’s what happened to Elizabeth Ortega.

On her phone’s caller identification it read “Skype phone number.” Ortega answered and a man on the other line gave her grandson’s name and said he’s being held in a jail in the Dominican Republic.

“When guy got on the phone, he didn’t give his name,” she said. “He just said they had our grandson in (jail).”

The man added that Ortega needed to wire $1,400 to pay her grandson’s attorney fees. He gave the attorney’s name, but no address.

Then the man let her speak to a man impersonating her grandson, who explained everything that happened.

Ortega said she had her doubts about the story, but the thieves still convinced her to drive to the bank and withdraw $1,400. From there, she went to Western Union in Stockton, prepared to wire the money.

But before she could, a Western Union employee told her it was all a scam. Ortega called her grandson, and lo and behold, he answered.

“It’s a good thing that lady helped us out,” Ortega said. “It was all a scam.”

Amin said that while Ortega avoided becoming a victim, not everyone does.

He worked a case several months ago where an elderly man was scammed out of more than $100,000 because his son needed to be helped out of a jam, he thought.

“We’re always dealing with some kind of scam,” he said.

Amin added that scams typically target the elderly. He recommends that people call the police if they believe they’re being scammed.

“A little bit of diligence will immediately bring results,” Amin said, adding that if Ortega had called the police they would be able to confirm if her grandson was incarcerated.

Ortega said she’s learned from this incident. She checks the caller ID and asks many questions if she senses a scam.

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

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