The Con is On
My father-in-law called while I was working at my desk the other day. He asked if I knew that one of my sons (the one attending college in Missoula, Mont.) had been in a car accident in British Columbia and was now in jail.
I was vaguely aware of my pulse rate doubling and blood pressure spiking as my father-in-law explained that he had just received a very disturbing call. Apparently, my father-in-law answered his phone to hear a young man simply say, “Hi, Grandpa? It’s me!” When my father-in-law said he didn’t know who ‘me’ was, the caller said, “Oh, you don’t recognize my voice? It’s your grandson!”
Apparently my father-in-law didn’t respond quickly enough, so the caller continued, “Which grandson do you think this is?” When my father-in-law finally asked if the caller was (my son’s name), the caller excitedly said, “Yeah, it’s me!”
Ding, ding, ding! Light bulb flash! Hearing this, the warning bells and whistles went off in my mind as I’m sure they must have in my father-in-law’s mind at this same point in the call. Recognizing the call for the scam it was (along with sending up a silent “thank you” prayer to the heavens), my heart rate returned to normal as my father-in-law continued to recount the call from the con man. The caller proceeded to shovel his manipulative manure about how he and some friends had supposedly driven over the border to Canada and had been sideswiped by another car. To ramp up the drama, he said that one of these friends had been killed in the accident, and somehow – the sequence of events wasn’t exactly made clear – my supposed “son” had wound up in jail and, oh yeah, just happened to need $2,200 wired to him immediately in order to get out and get back home.
The caller told my father-in-law that he didn’t want “his parents” to know anything about the terrible incident until he was back at home so we wouldn’t worry. How thoughtful. How bogus.
My father-in-law had had enough experience with – and faith in – my son’s character and integrity to know that he would not hide any serious trouble from his mother and me – especially something that involved a car accident (been there, done that), jail (haven’t done that, thankfully) and the death of a friend (double ditto). Having had enough, my father-in-law told the low-life on the phone, “I’m good for the money, but the only way you’re going to get it is from your folks.”
Hearing that, the creep hung up. Big surprise.
And yet, even knowing that the call was a scam and that my son was safe and healthy and happy and going about his normal daily routine out in Missoula, my in-laws were still worried that maybe – just maybe – their grandson was truly in some sort of trouble. Later that day, when I told my own mom about the attempt to con my in-laws, she too was shocked. She was angry. She was appalled that someone would do such a thing. Then, she was worried. She asked if I’d talked to my son that day to make sure he was okay.
Well, had I? Yes, I had. He was more than fine. He lives in Montana, after all.
“But,” my mom asked several more times, “are you sure he’s okay?”
Sigh. That’s how this scam works. It plays on the fears and feelings of those who love our kids. I’m just thankful my own grandkids are still far too young for a con like this to work. The mini-monkeys range in age from 2 to 6 years old. If one of them calls in the next year or so saying they need a couple grand to get out of jail, I’ll laugh and tell them to go back to watching Bubble Guppies. And then I’ll call their parents to make sure they’re really okay.
I’ll see you ’round town.