Don't get fooled
Last updated 10/17/2023 at 10:03am
When my cell phone rang one morning a while ago, the caller ID said, “unknown caller.” Usually I simply ignore calls like that, and delete them.
I hadn’t heard from my younger son in another town for a while and he had been on my mind, so I answered the call, figuring maybe he had lost his phone again. Over the years, I have received many distressing phone calls regarding my youngest, who is often living on the edge.
The voice on the other end confirmed my worst fears. Though I could barely understand him, he said he had been in an automobile accident, hit another car that had run a red light, had his phone taken by the police, and was calling from the courthouse. He was emotionally distraught and having difficulty talking due to a broken nose and stitched lip. Could I help with bail? His attorney would give me the details. I wrote down the attorney’s name and phone number, and called him as soon as I hung up.
David Rhoman answered the phone: “Public defender’s office, David Rhoman speaking.” He relayed the details of the situation to me. My son had been checking his GPS as he was driving, didn’t see the other car entering the intersection, and T-boned her. The woman was six months pregnant, was in critical condition in the hospital, and, so far, she hadn’t lost the baby.
Judge had set bail at $250,000 but later lowered it to $95,000. Could I post $9,500 to get my son out in two hours? If I put the amount on a credit card, it would take five business days to clear so he could be released, and it was now Thursday.
Now, you ask, why would I think that was a legitimate call? My son doesn’t have his driver’s license due to previous driving infractions, and he doesn’t have a car. But given his extensive track record, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility.
I told the attorney I needed some time to consider the situation and he agreed to call me back later that day and would also have a medical update on the woman’s condition. When I hadn’t heard from him by 4 p.m., I called his number – twice. That number was no longer in service. After the second try, the light bulb went on, and I realized the whole thing had been a scam! I tried calling the main number for the public defender’s office to see if they had a David Rhoman but they closed at 4:30 p.m. (This should have been my first call!)
The combination of tremendous relief that none of it had really happened, and anger at such thoughtless conniving created a potent physical response that continued to occasionally surface over the next week. I had to keep reminding myself it wasn’t true.
I called my son that night and have never been so relieved to hear his voice. I hadn’t tried earlier because I was laboring under the belief “they had taken his phone.” The perpetrators almost hit the jackpot when they called me because everything they told me was possible given my past filled with troubling phone calls regarding my son.
Thankfully, I have a strong heart and didn’t succumb to shock. I hear and read about scam warnings for older adults all the time and have always been certain I would never be fooled by one. But I was.
One big mistake I made as I was trying to understand what “my son” was saying, was to use his name. When I wasn’t sure what he was saying, I said, “Is that you, (his name)?” and when he said yes, they had me.
Another thing I could have done was ask the “attorney” for the case number. He provided me with all sorts of believable details and explanations about bail, the accident, and the other driver’s condition. It was a sophisticated scam inflicted on someone who had enough previous experiences that I was ripe for the plucking.
I share my experience as a warning. Scams and scammers are increasing in number and sophistication. If in doubt, hang up. Or better yet, if a caller is unknown or blocked, don’t answer.
The National Council on Aging, in partnership with Bank of America, produced a handbook for seniors titled “Savvy Saving Seniors: Steps to Avoid Scams,” which is available on their website at http://www.ncoa.org/article/avoiding-scams-savvy-saving-seniors-financial-education. Click on participant handbook PDF.
Lt. Chad Davis of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Sisters office provided some pointers for all of us to consider and I encourage you to cut them out and keep them by your phone.