Cruel scam targets seniors

A MoneyGram receipt showing McVey wired $3,000 to Toronto, Canada.

Raymond McVey, 79, thought it was his grandson on the phone.

"First thing I heard was 'Hi grandpa," McVey said. "This is your grandson."

The man on the other end said he was McVey's grandson, Jamie. He said he was in Canada, in big trouble, and asked McVey to keep a secret.

"He said 'I got a DUI last night and I got to go to court,'" said McVey. "'And the fine is going to be $3000 dollars.'"

McVey, a loving grandfather, wanted to help.

"I said, 'Jamie I don't have $3000 dollars in the house,'' he said, describing the phone conversation. "I said I'd have to get that out of my savings and that takes about a week. And he says, 'Well grandpa, don't you have a credit card where you can get cash?'"

McVey went to the Sunrise Beach Wal-Mart and wired $3000. He later went back and wired another $3000, to help cover lawyer fees. A few days later, though, he got suspicious and called his grandson only to discover that he never needed help and had never been to Canada.

A spokesman for Attorney General Jay Nixon says this case is all too familiar.

"This is the classic grandparents scam," said Nixon spokesman Travis Ford. "Unfortunately someone calls claiming to be the grandchild of the Missouri senior that they've contacted."

Nixon himself has called the scam "among the cruelest" he's seen. Five other similar cases have been reported in Missouri. In Madison, Wis. one grandparent was conned out of almost $20,000 bucks. So far, the scams have all come out of Canada.

"They say, 'I'm in some kind of legal trouble and I need money.'" said Ford. "Or maybe, 'I'm in the hospital and I need money.' Or 'I'm on vacation and my car's broken down and I need money either for repairs or transportation.'"

The scammer typically calls a number of people at random hoping for someone to bite. Authorities say trust is a big part of this scam and its variations. And that's a big reason why grandparents don't usually call to verify before sending money.

Unfortunately, McVey has little recourse. However, local law enforcement have been in contact with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and are working with them.

"I was trying to do the right thing, I thought," said McVey. "The old cliche: At the time it seemed like the right thing to do."

Consumer Safety Tips

The attorney general's office urges anyone who gets a call similar to the one McVey got, to follow these tips:

1. Always be suspicious of requests to wire money

2. Quiz the caller with specific questions like, "What's your sister's name?" and "Where were you born?"

3. Verify the whereabouts of your grandchild before sending any money.