An elderly Key Largo man is out $1,500 after wiring the money to someone who convinced him he was a family member in trouble, says the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.
The 95-year-old victim told Sgt. Susan Keene he received a phone call on Friday from someone identifying himself as his grandson, agency spokeswoman Becky Herrin said.
She said the imposter told him he was in Mexico, had drunk too much and had been arrested. The caller told him he needed $1,500 to bond out of jail and asked the victim to send the money via Western Union.
The caller told the victim not to tell anyone else about it because he was embarrassed about being arrested and didn't want anyone else to know, Herrin said.
The victim said his grandson does travel to Mexico on business and so he believed the call to be legitimate, so he wired the money. It wasn't until afterward that he began to suspect a scam. He called his grandson, who was safe at home and not in Mexico.
So what's the connection between the scammer and 95-year-old Key Largo man? Herrin said no one knows -- and there might not even be one.
"With these scams, these guys are pretty good about knowing about a family," she said. "They always know something about the person.... All you have to do is read someone's Facebook page to get information about their family."
She said there are many versions of this scam in which family members or friends are ostensibly in trouble and need money. The scammers almost always ask for money to be wired to them -- making it virtually impossible to trace once it has been sent.
They sometimes insist on staying on the phone with the victim until the money is sent.
In some versions of the scam, victims are asked to purchase a "green dot" prepaid debit card then asked to give the caller the number off the back, giving them access to the money on the card. Sometimes the callers will say they have a friend or family member under their control and are holding them until money is transferred.
The victim in Key Largo told Sgt. Susan Keene he feels "stupid" about falling for it, but reported it to the Sheriff's Office in the hopes it will keep someone else from becoming a victim, Herrin said.