Family warns others after 92-year-old Sheboygan Co. woman loses $19K in 'grandparent scam'

Posted at 6:06 AM, Jun 30, 2021

SHEBOYGAN COUNTY — Sara Rogers wants the world to know what happened to her 92-year-old mom of Sheboygan County in hopes someone else reads this story and warns their loved one.

Often referred to by law enforcement as the "Grandparent Scam" some area law enforcement agencies are seeing it ramp up again. It starts with a disturbing phone call.

"He said, 'Grandma I'm in a lot of trouble. I was probably texting while I was driving and I hit a lady in her car and she was pregnant,'" Rogers recalled her mom telling her.

"It did not occur to my mother that it was a scam," Rogers said.

Her mom thought her grandson was going to jail. Another person got on the phone posing as his lawyer.

"And then he said well, 'We're going to need money for bail because we're not going to let him out,'" Rogers explained the caller told her mom.

Rogers said her mom fell for the bogus story and followed specific instructions the man gave her.

"She didn't call us because that lawyer said there's a gag order on this case. So, you can't tell anyone, not even your children, family, neighbors, anything," continued Rogers.

Rogers will later learn, her mom withdrew a total of $19,500 from her different banks and on two separate occasions went to a UPS inside of a True Value in New Holstein and shipped cash in a box overnight to an address in Florida.

"What about when she went to the bank, did the bank tellers say, 'why are you taking out this much money?'" the I-Team's Kristin Byrne asked Rogers.

"They did ask her and they did try and stop her. At that time, none of us kids were linked to her accounts. So, we didn't know," Rogers said.

Rogers said when she contacted the UPS, they asked her mom a lot of questions, but her mom insisted on the delivery.

The Federal Trade Commission and the FBI have both reported an uptick in this kind of fraud during the pandemic.

From 2015 through the first three quarters of 2020, the FTC reports it has received more than 91,000 complaints of imposter scams.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection report since 2015, it has received 61 complaints of the grandparent scam.

"It's definitely occurring more often than that, whether or not the people are reporting it to the correct agencies, is definitely a whole different question," said Courtney Anclam, a Senior Program Specialist with the AARP.

The AARP offers consumer tips and advice for how to spot signs of the grandparent scam.

"What are some specific warning signs that bank tellers and retailers can look out for?" Byrne asked Anclam.

"If it's a large withdraw that they are usually not making," Anclam said.

"If somebody comes and they seem really nervous and jittery," she added.

The AARP also offers what's called BankSafe -- a training program for tellers to help identify this kind of fraud.

Anclam says retailers shouldn't shy away from asking questions especially if a customer buys a lot of gift cards, which criminals often demand for payment.

"They might get mad at you for asking but as the service provider it's better to try to be helpful and be safe rather than later find out that person lost all of that money," she said.

Although that didn't help in this case, Sara Rogers filed a police report for her mom and a complaint with the FTC detailing what happened. She doesn't believe her mom will get any of her money back.

"Not a lot they can do because it's all cash," she said.

"How is she doing now?" Byrne asked Rogers.

"She's doing pretty good. She's really upset about mistakes. She's ashamed. However, she wants everyone to know this is out there," said Rogers.

To file a complaint with DATCP, click here.

To file a complaint with the FTC, click here.

You can also learn more tips from AARP on how to prevent fraud here.

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