Scam spreads to Socorro

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When Hal Quinn and his wife, Carmen, of Socorro saw the Albuquerque Journal Friday, they were surprised to see a repeat of a scam they had experienced themselves.

The story, “Walmart Duo Save Granny From Scam,” by Joline Gutierrez Kruger, was almost identical to something they experienced.

Last week, the Quinns received a call from someone who sounded just like their grandson who works in El Paso.

“He said he was in jail in Mexico,” Hal said.

The voice, completely believable, told Carmen her grandson had been in Juarez for a funeral and had been stopped on his way back to the United States. She was told the authorities had found drugs in his trunk and he had contacted the U.S. Embassy.

The grandson’s voice said he had tested clean for drugs but was in jail and his grandparents should talk to the embassy representative.

The person the Quinns talked to then told them to get their grandson out of jail, they would need to send $2,600 right away.

They were also told not to tell anybody else.

But Hal told the embassy representative to call his son, the father of the young man in question, who would be responsible for providing any money. Then he hung up the phone.

Suspicion nagged at Hal’s mind and he called his son himself right away. The younger Quinn called the grandson’s work place in El Paso — and there he was at work, just as he was supposed to be.

“This could be a bad scam,” Hal said. “I just want people to know it is happening, and it is happening right here.”

In the story out of Albuquerque, Minnie McKenna was saved from sending $2,860 to save her own grandson from a Mexican jail, by two Walmart employees who refused service to her last week.

“He said, ‘I’m in trouble,’” McKenna, 88, recalled. “He was all excited, saying he had gone to Mexico to attend a buddy’s funeral, which could very well be. He was in the military and knows people from all parts of the world.”

Grandson Benjamin, McKenna said, told her he and some friends had been arrested after traces of drugs had been found in their car. He had tested negative for drugs, but still he needed $2,860 to post bail.

Another man, this one claiming to be David Anders with the U.S. Embassy, asked her to give him her grandson’s full name for “verification.” He told McKenna to wire the money — they don’t take Visa — and her grandson would be put on a plane and the arrest wiped clean from his record.

McKenna was instructed to send the money via MoneyGram, a global money transfer service partnered with Walmart, to an agent named Marco Antonio Molina in Jalisco, more than 300 miles west of Mexico City.

She was also told not to tell a soul or things might go awry.

“It was all so real,” she said.

When the clerks at Walmart smelled a scam and wouldn’t send the money, McKenna went home to make a few calls, including one to the supposed Mexican official, who suggested she wire the money through a different store.

Then she called Benjamin in Manhattan, Kan. and there he was.

He had never been in Mexico, never been in jail. It had all been a scam.

 

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