Woman avoids phone scam with quick thinking

Personal questions and awareness saved thousands of dollars for one local woman.

"I think it's so upsetting- I was very upset about the entire thing, I'm still very upset about it," Scam Victim's Granddaughter Christy Bertolino said. "I talked to her this morning and she's very upset still. I'm sure they targeted her thinking that she would be the one who gave in. And, thankfully, she's smarter than that. She knew- she knew the questions to ask and I'm so proud of her."

When scam artists picked up the phone and dialed the woman's number, they probably thought more money was about to come their way. They posed as the woman's grandson, who was in Mexico for a mission trip. But when they couldn't answer the personal questions the woman asked, they hung up the phone.

According to the Better Business Bureau, this scam is nothing new.

"In the beginning, we had a lot of losses to this scam because many people did respond," Texas Panhandle BBB CEO Janna Kiehl stated. "It's a family member, there's an emergency situation, or so they think. And, so, they send money to it. But I think now a lot of people are catching on and realizing that they need to prove that that person is indeed their relative."

Nowadays, many people post personal information on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Even church websites can give scamsters the information they need- names and photos of people going out of the country for mission trips.

"The criminals have a lot of background information about where the person might be, that they're in jail, that they're in another country," Amarillo Police Department Sgt. Brent Barbee said, "and they can use that information to make it sound very, very realistic."

But some scammers do not take the time to obtain someone's personal information- they pick up the phone and wait to hear that personal information come from the person on the other end of the phone. Just like the woman who escaped the phone scam, Kiehl recommends people ask personal questions and immediately contact family members to verify the situation is true.

"Do call the BBB," she said. "We track this type of thing, we want to know what's going on out in the community. And one good way to do that is to have these consumers call us and let us know."

Sgt. Barbee also offered some other advice.

"Only trust information that comes from a source that you've dug up yourself."

This local woman was lucky. Unfortunately, scams do not always end up that way. But if people are smart and do not act out of panic, Kiehl says they can save themselves and their family the pain, and the loss of thousands of dollars.

"Using their personal information, their family members as bait- I just think that that's the lowest of low," Bertolino said.