Chile phone scam tricking elderly into sending money

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Answering your phone could cost you thousands of dollars.

Con artists have figured out a way to use your own words against you, and trick you into sending them money. And they're mostly targeting senior citizens.

Anita Franken of High Ridge got a call last week from a man she thought was her grandson.

"He started talking and I recognized the voice right away," said Franken. "I guess I just assumed it was john."

The man said he was in a drunk driving crash in Chile, South America and desperately needed help.

"I had to send a money gram for $2,800 to get my grandson out of jail. He said don't tell anybody. Don't tell my dad, he'll kill me."

Franken was even given a specific name and address to send the money. The man insisted she buy the money gram at Wal-Mart, but Franken went to her bank instead.

"That's when they said this sounds like a scam," said Franken.

"The dangers of wiring money would be like going to a grocery store parking lot when it's really busy and taking cash out of your pocket and handing it to a stranger you have never met," said Chris Thetford of the St. Louis Better Business Bureau.

He says these scammers prey on the emotion of the situation.

"They're hoping people will react completely with their heart rather their head."

Technology is helping these scammers create more believable stories. Public Facebook pages with information about your age and family members are a gold mine for con-men looking to spin a web of lies.

Fortunately, Franken didn't send the money. Instead, she made a phone call and learned her grandson had just gotten to his job a few miles from her home.

The Better Business Bureau says the best defense against this kind of scam is to call other family members to make sure the relative in question is actually out of the country. The BBB recommends you don't mention names or anything that will help the scammer build a story. And be extremely careful any time you wire money because once it's gone there's no getting it back.


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