A Farmington man says the caller on the other end of the phone line claimed to be a nephew in trouble with the law – but instead, was a scammer who took the man and his wife for almost $4,000.
“He had the right voice and words,” the man said. “But he wasn’t the right person. And they got to us.”
On Monday, the couple – who asked for their names to not be used - talked about the call they received on March 1 that led them to believe they were helping a nephew in a moment of crisis.
At about 10:30 a.m. that morning, the phone rang and what they thought was a familiar voice was on the line.
“They knew an awful lot about us and our nephew … he’s a good boy and has never been in any trouble of any kind,” he said. “The way they worked the scam … they had someone impersonating him. It sounded just like him."
The “nephew” claimed he was jailed after an automobile accident where he struck a telephone pole. In order to get out of jail, the caller claimed, the couple needed to send $2,000 through a money wire.
“We believed it,” he said. “We shouldn’t have, but we did.”
His wife said the caller kept pleading “please don’t tell anybody. I don’t want anybody to know it.”
“That’s why we thought he did not call his own mom and dad,” she said.
The husband, who has been on hospice care since Dec. 1, was unable to go with his wife when she went to the bank to withdraw the money.
“We had to pay $40 extra to get the money order,” he said.
Later that same day, the couple received another call. Now, the caller claimed, the $2,000 was not enough. An additional $1,900 was needed to be wired to replace the pole the “nephew” hit.
This time, however, the couple's luck got worse.
“She was trying to get me dressed and I was almost ready when my legs gave way and I fell to the floor,” he said.
Still concerned about their “nephew,” the husband encouraged his wife to go ahead to the bank to withdraw the additional funds.
But this time, the scammer told the couple, they would need to go to another location to send a money order.
To make matter worse, the wife would hit a barrier with their car in the parking lot – causing $1,000 in damage to their vehicle.
“I was so nervous,” she remembers.
The husband called his hospice nurse while his wife was gone.
“I told them I was down in the floor, but the door was open,” he said. “They came and put me in bed.”
He recounted what was going on to the nurse who told him she feared they were victims of a scam – unfortunately after the two money wires had been sent.
The next day, the husband’s caseworker from hospice visited the couple. She wanted to get in touch with the actual nephew, who works as a captain on a river boat.
“I called his sister-in-law and got his number,” he said. “She left him a message and he called her back.”
That's when they received the news - the actual nephew was fine.
The couple called the Farmington Police Department to file a report. While an officer was at the home on March 3 getting copies of the receipts from the couple’s money withdrawals, the phone rang once again with a familiar voice on the other line – the “lawyer” for their nephew.
The “lawyer” called to offer his “assistance” in catching phone scam artists.
“He wanted us to go in on a sting operation,” the husband said. “He said ‘if we get them, we’ll give you $2,500’… but then he wanted some more money to do that.
“So, I told him ‘no’, that the police were here and gave the phone to the police officer. The officer gave the phone back to me. The caller started talking again and I said ‘I’ve gone just as far as I’m going to go with you’ and he slammed down the phone.”
The couple say the amount of information the caller knew in the first call is what fooled them. The nephew does not have a common name – and, it’s his middle name that he goes by.
The husband said the only thing he can think that led the scammers to the couple is photos the two were in on Facebook when the nephew visited a few weeks back.
They also learned the nephew’s mother received a similar call to a nephew in legal trouble around the same time.
An account has been set up at Belgrade State Bank to help recoup the $3,900 they had to pay - as a surprise to the couple.
“Caring Neighbors” was set up at the bank on Monday by a friend.
The two said they hope their story prevents others from falling to the same scam.
“We don’t want to be recognized out of this,” he said. “We just want people to know.”