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MSP trooper stops scam and helps return $15,000 to 78-year-old woman

Posted at 6:39 PM, Jan 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-30 18:39:53-05

CALHOUN COUNTY, Mich.  — Michigan State Police trooper James Hughes was shocked at a report he read last week, he said. The dispatcher didn’t give him much information about the incident but he decided to check it out.

“I was reading through notes and basically long story short was this lady had sent $15,000 to someone from a phone scam,” Hughes said during an interview with FOX 17. “Initially my first thought was 'there’s got to be a typo in there somewhere' you know. $15,000 is a lot of money.”

However it was true, he said. Hughes reached out to the 78-year-old woman who lived in Branch County and she told him the story.

“She starts walking me through what happened, you know, ‘this male called me and said that he was my grandson that he had been in an at-fault accident in Hawaii,’” Hughes recalled the woman saying to him. “And that basically he was stuck at the courthouse.”

The caller then passed the phone to a woman who said that the grandson needed $15,000 to retain a lawyer, Hughes said.

“Unfortunately for [the 78-year-old woman] she had a grandson who was in the military, who was stationed in Hawaii. And, they happened to know his name,” Hughes said. “That’s why she kind of thought it was a little more credible than most [scams].”

The woman was also told that she was not allowed to speak to her grandson, Hughes said. So she went to the bank and withdrew $15,000.

She then boxed it up and shipped it from a FedEx in Angola, Indiana to an address in Jersey City, New Jersey, Hughes said. It’s where the caller requested the money should go.

However, the woman began second guessing the phone call, Hughes said.

“Luckily she had the receipt that had the tracking number and everything on it,” Hughes remembered. “I was able to call and say that it was in transit and it hadn’t been delivered yet and still had an option to divert it.”

Hughes then called the Jersey City Police Department and informed them of the situation. Immediately they went to the address which turned out to be a salon.

“Luckily sometime that afternoon one of the detectives from Jersey City PD, called our post and said ‘yeah we were able to go out and pick up the package. It’s at our police department in property,’" Hughes said. “That was on a Friday. Come Monday they said ‘yeah, we talked to our supervisors, we talked to our superiors and basically said ‘yeah, no problem, we’re going to overnight it.’”

When the package arrived at the Marshall Regional Law Enforcement Center, the woman picked it up and was able to redeposit her money, Hughes said.

Hughes added that the caller reached out to the woman again and told her that her grandson was released and has a new court date.

She didn’t believe the person this time, Hughes said.

However that’s how scams work, he said. They go on the internet and on social media to dig up people’s information to make their requests believable.

He said it’s important for everyone to be aware of any suspicious requests made over the phone.

“If you can’t spot that’s it’s a scam right away just call and have somebody look into it for you,” Hughes said. “Save yourself the hassle of having to go through trying to get anything back that you might have sent them.”