Two New York men were arrested last weekend in Connecticut and charged in a “grandparents scam” that targeted a Fauquier County woman.
The victim, of Delaplane, contacted the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 21 to report that she had received a phone call from someone claiming to be her grandson. The caller stated that he had been in a car crash and needed money, according to the sheriff’s office.
Questioned by the woman, the caller stated he had suffered a broken nose in the crash and that’s why his voice sounded different than her grandson’s. He told her he was now in jail in Atlanta, Georgia.
The victim then received another phone call from someone alleging to be from the public defender’s office, prompting her to make “a good faith deposit” of $7,500 to help her grandson via an overnight UPS delivery to an address in Brooklyn, N.Y., according to the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office.
The woman subsequently received several more phone calls attempting to extort another $15,000 in cash from her. The victim told police she felt she may have been scammed and called her grandson only to realize he was at home, not in Georgia, had not been in a crash and was, in fact, fine.
Fauquier County Sheriff’s Detective Strick Payne was assigned to the case and by this time, the victim had received more requests to send money to an address in Stamford, Conn. Payne worked with Stamford Police to organize a delivery of a package—stuffed with paper—to the address on Avery Street.
On Saturday, Feb. 2, financial crime investigators with the Stamford Police set up surveillance in the area and around 10:02 a.m., a UPS truck approached the location. A suspect, later identified as Eduardo Santos-Cruz, 26, of the Bronx approached the UPS driver and signed for the package.
Officers observed Santos-Cruz walk to a van with NY plates which was occupied by a second person, according to Stamford Police. Investigators attempted to stop the suspects and a short vehicle pursuit ensued until both men were taken into custody.
The second suspect was identified as Hector Rivera, 25, also of the Bronx. During the pursuit, the suspects had thrown the package and other evidence out of the window which was later recovered.
Rivera was charged in Connecticut with Conspiracy at Larceny 2nd, Criminal Attempt at Larceny 2nd, three counts of Forgery 2nd, Engaging Police in Pursuit, Reckless Operation, and Interfering with Police, according to Stamford authorities.
Santos-Cruz was charged with Conspiracy at Larceny 2nd, and Criminal Attempt at Larceny 2nd. Both suspects were later released on a $100,000 bond.
According to Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Lt. James Hartman, the victim did not recover her initial loss of $7,500. He said the local investigation remains ongoing.
Scams targeting grandparents have been around in various incarnations for years, according to the Federal Trade Commission. In 2017 nearly one in five people reported losing money in an impostor scheme like the grandparent scam, amounting to a loss of $328 million, according to the FTC. Those ages 70 and older have suffered the highest average losses.
“The scammers are very good at what they do—they make the story very convincing and urgent so that you wouldn’t want to make a mistake,” said attorney Kati Daffan, assistant director of the division of marketing practices at the Federal Trade Commission, as quoted in an article for AARP. “The stakes are incredibly high, and they’re good at pulling at your emotions. They know how to get your fight-or-flight response activated so that your critical thinking faculties are just not the way they are normally.”
Victims of grandparent scams or another form of fraud should report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or 877/FTC-HELP. AARP’s Fraud Watch Network also provides tips and advice on how to spot and avoid scams, according to the article provided by the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office.