A group of Massachusetts police officers helped an elderly woman avoid falling victim to a scammer who tricked her into sending thousands of dollars via the United Parcel Service with a so-called “grandchild in jail” scheme, according to authorities.
Dracut police received a call from a woman in Florida who told them she believed her mother was the victim of a scam and had sent $25,000 to an address in the Massachusetts town, officials said.
The daughter explained how her mother received a call saying her grandson was arrested and that money needed to be sent to a lawyer for him to be released, according to a statement from Dracut Chief of Police Peter Bartlett.
The woman also told officers that the UPS package of cash her mother sent to the address in Dracut hadn’t yet been delivered, Bartlett’s statement said.
Members of the Dracut Police Department then worked with UPS to intercept the package before it was delivered. The cash will now be returned to the grandmother, according to the statement.
For their work, police Sgt. Lawrence Flynn, Lt. Wilmer Buote, Detective Megan Farley and Dispatcher Andrew Talmacci will be recognized with letters of commendation. The victim’s daughter expressed her appreciation for their efforts, Bartlett noted.
“The ability to recover funds for the victim of a scam is an incredibly rare occurrence,” the police chief said. “I am very proud of these officers and Dispatcher Talmacci for their dedication and thorough work, which resulted in the recovery of a large sum of funds for a well-meaning person who had unfortunately been targeted by someone with ill intentions.”
He added: “I’d also like to credit the victim’s daughter for her attentiveness and for contacting police as soon as she learned of the possible scam. We are thankful that an oftentimes irreversible situation ended positively.”
Scammers often target seniors by coaxing them into sending money by claiming that a relative is in trouble, Bartlett explained. These claims may include a relative being arrested and in need of bail money and other family emergencies and troubling situations. However, people of all ages can be targeted by scammers.
For instance, 30-year-old Samantha Cookis, a social worker from Chicopee, received a call from someone claiming to be an officer with the U.S. Social Security Administration, telling her a car had been pulled over in Texas registered under her name and that she was going to face money laundering and drug trafficking charges. The scammers also claimed her Social Security number was suspended.
Complying with the scammers’ demands, Cookis took $2,500 out at the bank, used the money to buy a slew of Target gift cards and read the barcodes aloud to the caller. The cards were later cashed after the Chicopee woman realized she fell victim to a scam.
Authorities across the U.S. have said there’s been an uptick in scam calls since the coronavirus pandemic began, with the Federal Trade Commission reporting more than $174 million lost to government imposter schemes last year.
Romance scams have also proven problematic for so many Americans. These schemes involve scammers using online dating apps and websites to build trusting relationships with victims, who they then persuade to send money or share personal and financial information.
Throughout the country, victims of these schemes lost around $605 million last year. In New England, victims lost roughly $11.7 million, with Massachusetts residents alone losing around $8 million. There were 361 victims in the Bay State.