An 87-year-old grandmother hailed a cab, desperate to get to her local Walmart. A Yellow Cab pulled up, and she hopped inside, assuming she’d be at her destination in no time. The driver took one look, however, and refused her request. Instead of Walmart, the cabby quickly took her somewhere else entirely.
Richard Spencer, a Yellow Cab driver in Quincy, Massachusetts, is receiving a lot of attention after one ride didn’t go according to a passenger’s plan. After an 87-year-old woman got in his cab and said she wanted to go to Walmart, the driver quickly refused when he heard what she planned to do there. With warning bells going off, Spencer headed to the police station instead.
During the ride, the elderly lady began to engage in casual conversation with the driver. She filled Spencer in on what was going on, telling him that she needed to get to the big box store in order to buy gift cards. That didn’t sound too unusual at first, but the amount and purpose definitely sent up some red flags. According to the unidentified woman, her grandson was in big trouble, and she was about to purchase a whopping $2,000 in gift cards for him.
Richard Spencer soon realized that this was the same elderly woman a coworker had told him about earlier. Another cabby said the grandma had bought two gift cards for $2,000 each earlier that day, and Spencer was immediately suspicious she was being scammed. “I don’t think so lady,” Spencer said he told the woman. “I think you’re getting scammed. I heard this before, you know.”
With his gut telling him that a scammer was pulling a con on this generous grandmother and preying on her kindness, Spencer decided he wasn’t about to let that happen. Rather than take her to the Walmart store, Spencer drove to the Quincy Police Station instead. “I said excuse me ma’am, but that is not your grandson,” Spencer recalled. “It’s someone posing. And, the police officers confirmed that to her that she was being scammed.”
The woman had already lost $4,000, but thanks to Richard Spencer, she wouldn’t be scammed out of thousands more. Authorities lauded Spencer as a good Samaritan for his efforts as they confirmed the woman was about to fall victim to a “textbook grandparent scam” once again.
According to police, a man had called the woman and identified himself as her grandson. After telling her that he had been in a car accident, he said he needed the gift cards so that he wouldn’t go to jail, CBS Local reported. He told her to call a cab, go to the store, and purchase the gift cards, then call him back with the pin numbers on the cards. Of course, the caring grandmother was more than willing to comply, believing she was helping her loved one.
Thankfully, Richard Spencer came to her rescue before she was out thousands of dollars more than she had already lost. “I said, no, no we’re not going to Walmart,” Spencer said, adding she needed to alert the police instead. “I said I believe your being scammed, and we’re going to try to save you some money.” Police have since praised Spencer’s efforts.
“Thank you Mr. Spencer for caring. You could have chosen to remain silent and ignore the signs. But you didn’t. And for that we say THANK YOU,” Quincy police wrote in a Facebook post. They also reminded others to be on the lookout for suspicious purchases being made by the elderly, which could be an indication they’ve fallen for a similar scam.
“Cashiers, etc: If you work in an environment that sells gift cards, take a moment to ask yourself: Does this make sense? Why would an 87-year-old individual need $4,000 in gift cards to this particular store/app?” the post from the police read.
“Ask questions,” the police furthered, encouraging the public to take an active role in protecting our vulnerable citizens. “Sure, there may be a legitimate reason, but if you take the time and ask the questions, you just might prevent someone from falling victim.”
“I think it’s one of the scummiest crimes you can do,” Richard Spencer said. “It just goes to show what scumbags they are.” He’s right, but sadly, the crooks usually get away with it. These telephone scammers typically operate outside the U.S., according to Quincy Police, and 99.9% of the time, the culprit is never caught. And, there isn’t always a hero like Richard who gets in their way.
So, it’s up to us to help protect those we love from falling for such scams. Make sure this information gets to them and also reaches those who work in positions that might allow them to spot a scam in progress. Those who work with the public have an opportunity to save vulnerable elderly targets from becoming victims — and all it takes is asking a few questions.