TURLOCK — When the call came that their grandson was in jail in New York and needed bail money, the Turlock couple knew better.
"I said, 'Let him stay there, then,' " said the woman. They knew their grandson wasn't anywhere near New York, nor in jail, and they recognized the scam immediately.
Unfortunately, the couple didn't recognize it when informed one of them had won $3.5 million and a new car in a sweepstakes. The longtime Turlock residents didn't want their names used because they're embarrassed they got taken in, but they wanted to share their story in hopes of saving someone else from the loss they suffered about $10,000.
"They make it sound so good," said the man.
They also make it look good, sending an official-looking letter on what appeared to be Bank of America letterhead, assuring the couple that the person the caller claimed to be had an account with the money in it. And they sent the couple a copy of the cashier's check, made out to the victim, for $3.5 million.
The couple took the check to the Turlock bank branch to make sure it was legitimate, and that's when the scam came to light.
"They told us for that much money, a check would have to have two signatures," the man said. While they were discussing the matter with bank staff, another customer overheard the conversation and came over to commiserate. That person, too, had been scammed.
"These types of scams are being reported more frequently in the past few years," said Turlock police officer Mayra Lewis. "Typically, the individual will target primarily elderly people. The individual will promise a large prize in exchange for money they claim will allow them access to the prize."