Not Ready For Prime Time scam unwinds | September 12, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - September 12, 2012

Not Ready For Prime Time scam unwinds

by Dave Boyce

At a household in Menlo Park's Sharon Heights neighborhood (the resident requested anonymity), the phone calls began Tuesday, Aug. 28, at around 10:15 a.m. The caller claimed to be the resident's 13-year-old grandson calling from a jail holding cell and in urgent need of $2,000.

Which jail? The grandson wouldn't say. On what charges? He wouldn't say. "He wouldn't answer questions," the woman told the Almanac. "He didn't like questions."

He did have a demand: that she should bring the $2,000 to a market on Willow Road and buy a money order there. Her grandson's agent would contact her at the market in person to take over delivery of the money order, she said she was told.

"I love you, Grandma," the caller said to her. "I need help and I'm in trouble."

He kept calling, perhaps 20 times over the next two hours, the woman said. "I thought I was going to do it," she said. But her suspicions were aroused by unsatisfactory answers to several of her questions:

• Why is your voice so gruff? He had been up all night, the caller said.

• What is your middle name? "I'm in a holding cell and you're asking me stupid questions?" the caller replied.

• What is your sister's name? "You know my sister's name," he replied with exasperation.

The woman said she called her grandson's middle school and found herself talking with him on the phone. "Then I really wanted to catch this guy," she said. She called the Menlo Park Police Department, who, she said, did not respond immediately as the officers on patrol were dealing with an accident.

An officer did arrive and took the next call from the perpetrator. The officer was no more successful in obtaining answers, and police said they'd let her know of progress on the case.


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