Elderly man scammed out of thousands of dollars over phone

A scammer got an elderly man to buy hundreds of dollars in eBay cards, posing as the man's grandson. (WTHR photo)

HENDRICKS COUNTY, Ind. (WTHR) — A Hendricks County woman said scammers stole thousands of dollars from her unsuspecting 91-year-old father.

"They pulled his heart strings. He was human and they got him," said the woman, who did not want to be identified. She said scammers know where her father lives and she wants to protect the family's identity. ​

She said someone kept calling her father on his landline claiming to be his grandson. ​

"These calls were going on for days. It was a grooming process. It wasn't just a one in done call," said the woman. ​

According the the National Council on Aging, what happened to her father is one of the most popular financial scams targeting the elderly. ​

It's called "The Grandparent Scam." It works like this: A fake grandchild asks for money to solve an unexpected financial problem and to not tell the parents. In this case, the fake grandchild said he was in jail and needed bail money. ​

"The fake grandson said, 'I've been arrested and they're letting me call you.' And then a second person calls and said he is the sergeant who arrested him," said the woman.​

The man pretending to be a police sergeant gave the man instructions on how to help his grandson with bail money. The elderly man went to Kroger to purchase $1,400 worth of eBay cards. He then read the numbers on the back of the card to the scammers.​

"I don't think my dad knew what an eBay card was. He thought it was a currency of sort," said the woman. ​

The woman said her dad bought the cards in $200 increments. Scammers called him again to ask for more money. The man went back to Kroger to purchase and additional $1,200 in eBay cards. ​

"I was hoping if you see something, say something, so the next time you're at a grocery store and you see an elderly man buying $1,400 worth of eBay cards you say, 'No one asked you to do that, have they?'" said the woman.​

Eyewitness News has learned some grocery stores, like Kroger, require employees to question elderly people when they make large purchases from Western Union, for example, to help prevent scammers from taking advantage of them. ​

According to NCOA, financial scams also often go unreported or can be difficult to prosecute, so they're considered a low-risk crime.​

The woman said the scammer kept calling back. This time, she forwarded her father's number to her home number to intercept the calls. When the phone rang, the scammer pretended to be ill, having just gotten out of jail. He claimed didn't have his wallet. The woman was posing as her mother. The most recent call lasted 12 minutes. Here is a portion of that call: ​

Scammer: "I'll call again later when grandpa is home."​
Grandma: "OK, honey thank you for calling."​
Scammer: "OK, I wanted to make sure you guys weren't worried about me. I talked to you for just a minute yesterday and then all that stuff happened."​
Grandma: "I'm sorry, didn't mean to worry you."​
Scammer: "OK, I'm going to start getting ready then. I'm going to head over to the church."​
Grandma: "Alright, be a good boy​
Scammer: "OK, I love you guys."​
Grandma: "Oh, and you know what? It looks like I kept you talking long enough and the FBI is after you." ​

"They stole his dignity. You can't get that back. Money is money but his dignity that's just, ya know, that's just not fair," said the woman.​

The family has contacted eBay. An eBay representative told them to contact the FBI.​

Now, the family is considering setting more aggressive limits on bank and credit cards, giving her father an unlisted landline to prevent scammers from calling. Most importantly, continuing the conversation about scams targeting the elderly. ​

For more information on how to protect yourself or your loved ones from scammers, click here.

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