Investigator Exclusive: Cleveland's elderly bilked in Canadian bail scheme

3:57 PM, Dec 10, 2009   |    comments
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Marge Shaw, 70, of Fairview Park says she was taken for $3000 when she received a phone call from her son. The caller, however, was a con man operating a so-called bail scam out of Montreal.

The caller had enough information to convince Marge that he was her son and he needed bail money to get out of jail in Canada. The con man fabricated an emergency, saying he was involved in a car accident and police suspected him of drunk driving. 

"I bought it hook, line and sinker", Marge said.  The con man was hoping that Marge's care and concern for a loved one would outweigh her normal skepticism.  The con artist was right.  Marge wired $3000 to the caller.

"Once the money is wired, there's not much we can do," Scott Wilson of the Cleveland FBI said.

Police report that another family in Fairview Park was taken  for about $3000 in a similar type of scam.

In Richmond Heights, "Mary" believed it was her 16 year old grandson who called asking her to wire about $3000 so he could be released from jail.  He explained that he picked up some kids at a party and when he was stopped by police, they found the kids had marijuana.

"My heart dropped so.  My mind completely blew," Mary told the Investigator Tom Meyer. Luckily for Mary, she didn't have enough money so she called her daughter who quickly discovered it was a scam.  Mary's grandson was  attending classes at Kenston High School in Bainbridge at the time of the call.

"I've been in Canada, but I've never been arrested," Zach said.

Hundreds of seniors have been swindled in this scam and have lost a total of nearly $4 million.

The FBI says you need to make sure of the caller's identity. Since the con men usually have basic information about a loved one, police say you should ask questions only a family member or relative would know, like the name of a pet.  Also, police say you should never give personal information to anyone who calls you.

"These con men will take every penny they can," agent Wilson said.  

WKYC-TV

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