By Jenn Watt
It hadn’t been an hour since I discussed this week’s story about a phone scam with reporter Sue Tiffin when I became the target of a scam myself.
Stunned at the brazen nature of the con artist who dialed up West Guilford resident Eleanor Cooper, posing as her grandson in desperate need of funds to avoid a night in jail, I couldn’t believe how low some people would stoop to make money.
I was busy with several other things – writing a story, consulting with co-workers, editing the paper – when a new message popped into my inbox from the president of a board on which I serve.
“Good morning Jenn,” the message appearing under the name of the board president read, “Are you free at the moment? Let me know.” The message was followed by his name and address.
Without giving it a second thought, I responded that I soon would be free and provided my number for him to call.
It wasn’t five minutes later I received a follow-up email: “I’m currently away for a conference In a Session right now. I will call you when I get home to discuss. However, Please can you do a bill payment(e-transfer) to someone? It’s imperative the payment goes out today and [the board treasurer] is not available to send out the payment at the moment. Can you possibly process the Interac transfer? You will be reimbursed.”
At this point, I was wise to the scam; the president’s email address didn’t look official and his normal signature wasn’t at the bottom. Unfortunately, I had responded providing my phone number and within 30 minutes I received a call from an unknown number. I didn’t answer and they didn’t leave a message.
Caught during a moment when my mind was elsewhere and thanks to the kind of information about people that can easily be found online, I was lured into replying to a scammer. Just as when Eleanor received a call in the early morning, with the person on the other end raising alarm with his panicked plea, she was lured by her scammer.
It can be as easy as that.
Anecdotally, it seems fraudsters are quite active right now, so we must all be diligent about these scams. Read up on them by reviewing Sue’s story and if you’re at all unsure about the call or email you’re getting, talk to a trusted friend or family member about it before agreeing to anything.
Falling for a scam can happen to anyone – the best defence is to become familiar with scammers’ tactics ahead of time and stay on alert.