Phone Scammers Pose as Family Members in Trouble with the Law

CALHOUN COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Police across West Virginia are warning about scammers targeting grandparents. Investigators say the scammers are posing as family members and asking for thousands of dollars in cash to get out of jail.

"They were so convincing," Frances Starkey said.

Fred and Frances Starkey are the latest victims in this scam. The couple from Calhoun County received a call from someone they believed to be their grandson.

"I got on the phone, and he was crying and saying not to call mom and dad, and not to tell them that he had flew to Virginia with he and his buddies," Frances Starkey said. "They had rented a car and wiped out a pole. He said 'I was drinking a little bit,' I mean, he was convincing with this crying thing."

The caller then put another person on the phone, who claimed to be a public defender. The caller said the Starkeys needed to pay $2,500 to get their grandson out of jail.

"I said, I'll mail a check," Frances Starkey said. "He said 'no, no, no.' He said they won't turn him loose until the cash is in hand."

The caller then instructed the Starkey's to go to Wal-Mart and buy a moneygram to wire the cash.

"That's when the first $2,500 went out," Frances Starkey said. "He calls me back and tells me the judge slapped two more tickets on him. One for drunken driving and one for reckless driving, and that he needed 2,200 dollars more."

Frances says that's when she started worrying, but despite her fears, she sent the cash.

"I was so upset that when I got back home and I called them and told them I need to talk to (my grandson)," Starkey said. "That's when I asked (my grandson) when his birthday was. He hung up, and I tried to dial the number back and the son of a gun wouldn't answer the phone."

The Starkeys then called their grandson, who let them know he wasn't in any trouble. At that point, they knew they'd been taken for a ride.

"I was livid," Frances Starkey said. "I fell apart at the police station. What really bothers me is when you're listening to this, you're not thinking correctly. You're not thinking it could happen to you."

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