Local grandmother warns against phone scams

Local grandmother warns against phone scams

Allison Mueller

Nathaniel Nelson/Winonan

On a chilly October afternoon, a Winona area grandmother received a phone call from an unknown number.

“Hello grandma. Some of us went downtown last night, and we got picked up,” the voice said. “I’m in jail, we’re in jail now.”

The caller was asking for bail money, but something seemed off. The sound was muffled, as if they were trying to disguise their voice. The grandmother, who wished to not be named by the Winonan, made the mistake of telling the caller her grandson’s name.

“The voice was muffled, so it could have been a grandson, or it might not have been,” the grandmother later recalled.

She explained to the caller that she was having difficulty hearing them, and asked if she could call them back.

“You know, I can call you back. Give me your phone number,” she said.

The caller rattled off an indistinguishable series of numbers, and it was then that the grandmother knew that something was wrong.

“I said, ‘That’s not your phone number, who is this?’ And they quickly hung up,” she said.

This phone call was one of a number of phone scams that have occurred in Winona over the past few years. In these scams, callers imitate loved ones to retrieve money. Their stories range from jailing, to car troubles and fiscal problems.

The grandmother said she knew of a few incidents before she received the call.

“I do know of someone here in town, this had to have been a couple of years ago, that had gotten a very similar phone call from a supposed grandson,” she said. “Like me, she made the mistake of saying is this George, or is this Bob. Yeah was the answer. She was taken for a couple thousand dollars.”

For this call, she said, the caller claimed to have been stuck in a foreign country and needed money to get home. They had the woman go to a drug store to take out and send a money order.

These scams can create a large impact on the families of students with an abundance of possible lawyer fees and lost money.

The grandmother said she hopes her experience can teach students about the danger of such crimes, and students need to have precautions put in place.

“Students should be aware of these going on and tell their parents or grandparents that, you know, have a password to give or ask what their grandmothers name was or some code between them,” she said.

The Winonan is following this story and others like it to continue to provide the Winona State University community on updates about area phone scams.