COLUMBIA — On April 6, a Columbia man was scammed into transferring money to an unknown suspect posing to be his grandson in Mexico City.
The caller told the 74-year-old man that he was his grandson and was in a Mexico City jail. He asked for a certain amount of money, then gave the phone to a woman who posed as a Mexico City official, Public Information Officer Latisha Stroer said.
The Columbia Police Department gives the following advice:
1. Never send money or give out personal information to unfamiliar companies or people.
2. Call the number from which you received the call so you can verify information. If a recording picks up that does not state the name of the company, it could be a scam.
3. Make a phone call to verify whether a relative is sick, stranded, in jail, etc.
4. Before sending money, ensure that the solicitor will use the money in the manner you agreed upon.
5. Be skeptical and take your time while making a decision on whether to transfer. Legitimate companies will not pressure you to make a snap decision.
6. Take safety precautions and do not pay by credit card, cash or money order.
7. Trust your judgment.
After transferring the money, the callers called back once more asking for additional money, and the man became suspicious. He called the police to report the situation the next day.
As of 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, there was no identification of the two callers, Stroer said. Police are still investigating who the callers are and where the scam actually took place.
Stroer said there is no way to recover the lost money. She said fraud insurance cannot be purchased if something is sent as a wire transfer and that it’s important to be aware of where money is being sent in an emergency situation.
The police department is working to get a subpoena for the phone records to find out whom the phone belonged to and where the calls were made from. Stroer hopes they will develop leads from there.
“It depends on how quickly they dump those phones that they used," Stroer said. "If it truly is a scam out of Mexico City, Mexico, then it’s even harder because it’s international."
If it is verified that the calls did not take place in Missouri, police will need to contact federal employees to let them know about the scam.