Phone scam resurfaces in community

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, June 16, 2011

Zelda Lewis answered the telephone, and the voice from the otherline said he was her grandson.

He was not her grandson but a scam operator, and Lewis almostbecame a victim.

Right at the beginning things did not seem right.

“This is Chris, your oldest grandson,” said the voice on thephone.

“Chris is not my oldest grandson,” Lewis said. “He has olderbrothers.”

Furthermore, the “Chris” on the phone sounded nothing like hergrandson.

“He said he broke his nose, and that was the reason he did notsound like himself,” Lewis said while recalling the recentevent.

Lewis was told her grandson Chris had gone to Madrid, Spain,because he was in a friend’s wedding to take place there.

“His friend’s name was Kevin. Supposedly Kevin had paid Chris’ wayto get to Spain,” Lewis said.

The story continued. While in Madrid, Chris had been in a caraccident and subsequently found himself arrested due to his bloodalcohol level.

“He was in this car accident and he needed $2,840 to get thislady’s car fixed,” Lewis said.

Later, the story changed, and Lewis was told that for $1,500 hergrandson’s lawyer, someone named Patrick Willis, could get Chrisout of prison and on an airplane.

Lewis was given an address in Madrid and told to send the moneywithin an hour. She had to send cash or a debit card.

Despite the inconsistencies in the story, Lewis’ main concern wasfor her grandson.

“I was thinking, if my grandson needs to get into the states, thenI need to help,” Lewis said.

Lewis and her husband James decided to send the money. Before theydid, though, they called Chris’ father.

Chris was on the job, not in a Madrid prison.

The story told by Lewis sounds all too familiar to Lincoln CountySheriff Steve Rushing.

“We hear about these scams all the time,” Rushing said.

According to Rushing, scams tend to primarily use the mail. Thelast time he heard of a telephone scam similar to the one thattargeted Lewis was about a year ago.

“It’s always a little bit different,” Rushing said. “They changethe story up, but I have heard things like that before.”

Rushing suggested several guidelines people should keep in mind toprotect themselves.

First, what Lewis ultimately did is the best course ofaction.

“Verify what the person says through other means,” Rushingsaid.

Second, one should never give out bank information over thephone.

Unfortunately, scams like this one often do succeed. Rushing hasdealt with people who lost thousands of dollars throughscams.

The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office publishes an onlinepamphlet advising senior adults on how to end up like Lewis ratherthan as victims.

The pamphlet identifies several key words or phrases that may beused over the phone, such as “cash only,” “today only” and aninsistence on secrecy.

Rushing reminded the public that the sheriff’s office can help insuch situations.

“If you can’t verify through family members, come to us and we willtry to verify and track down the number,” Rushing said.