Crooks targeting grandparents, Pinellas Co. woman loses $19,000 in scheme

Better Call Behnken

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Sandra Temple was terrified when she heard a voice on the phone that sounded like her 17-year-old grandson.

“It sounded just like him, and he was so upset.” Temple said.

Quickly, Temple was sucked into a scheme the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office calls the Grandparent Scam.

There’s a fake grandchild who claims to be in jail and a fake attorney. The goal is always to prey on a grandparent’s love and milk them out of money. Temple ended up losing $19,000.

The fake grandson was convincing.

“He went on to explain this business about being in an automobile accident, that he had used mouthwash that morning, and there was an open bottle of booze in the car that was his friends,” Temple said. “He didn’t want his mother to know right away. He wanted to see what was going to happen and I said, ‘Just calm down, we can get this worked out.’

The fake public defender said he needed bail money. Sandra followed directions to take $5,800 in 100 bills to a Wells Fargo ATM, call the attorney, get an account number and pass code and deposit the money.

This happened two more times for fees and court costs for a total of $19,000, all money she said she was promised she’d get back. The madness didn’t stop until she finally called her grandson’s mother.

“She said are you talking about my son?” recalled Temple. “And I’m going yeah. She said he’s sitting right here In the living room, doing his online study. And that’s what I knew. I just burst into tears.”

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is investigating and recently put out a public service announcement about this scheme.

Temple hopes her story saves others from the same heartache.

“They made the story so believable,” Temple said. “I mean I wish I had read about the scam initially, and I’m hoping that by putting this in the news that other people won’t be taken advantage of.”

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