An 83-year-old Hudson woman fell for a familiar scam in December 2017.
A man claiming to be her grandson telephoned. He was crying and told her he had been in a drunk driving accident and needed $6,000 in $100 bills for bail.
The woman quickly gathered the cash and shipped it off to a New Jersey address via FedEx. But a few hours later, the woman realized she had been duped and went to Hudson police for help. Police immediately reached out to FedEx officials, who agreed to intercept the package full of cash and return it to the Hudson woman, according to a lawsuit filed recently in federal court.
But the package of $100 bills never made it back to Hudson, the lawsuit said, and the woman now wants FedEx to pay up.
The Akron Beacon Journal is not naming the woman because she appears to be the victim of a crime. But Hudson police records included in the litigation reveal a cautionary tale.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said scammers posing as family members who need money is a common ruse impacting all ages in the U.S. But for people over age 70, the scammers pose as a grandchild, usually a grandson, about 70 percent of the time.
The median amount of money lost by people over age 70 in each of these grandparent scams is $9,000, adding up to more than $41 million in 2018, the FTC said.
In Hudson, the scam unfolded on a single day and involved several calls.
Sometimes the caller claimed to be the woman’s grandson. Other times, he claimed to be her grandson’s attorney.
During one call, the man told the Hudson woman to put $6,000 inside a magazine and mail it to him in Passaic, New Jersey.
During another call, a man told the woman her grandson crashed into a pregnant woman, who lost her child in the drunk driving crash. The man said the woman who lost her child was going to sue, but was willing to settle now for $15,000.
It’s not clear why, but the Hudson woman sent the $6,000, but not the additional $15,000 the man sought.
The jig was up hours later when the Hudson woman talked to her daughter and learned that her grandson was safe at home and not in any trouble.
That’s when the Hudson woman realized she had been duped, police reports said.
The woman and her husband immediately called Hudson police for help. Officers quickly figured out the package was still in transit and contacted FedEx. A FedEx employee told an officer the package would be returned, a police report said.
A couple hours later, Hudson police double checked the FedEx tracking website to make sure the package was heading back to Hudson, but discovered it was still heading toward the scammer in New Jersey, a police report said.
A Hudson police officer telephoned FedEx a second time and the delivery company "confirmed the package was canceled in their system and would be sent back to (the Hudson woman)," a police report said.
That never happened, the woman’s lawsuit alleges.
The next day, the woman and her husband went back to Hudson police after realizing the package apparently "fell through the cracks and was not returned to sender," police said.
The couple wondered if they should bring in the FBI since the package crossed state lines. But Hudson police told them most internet crime rings now cross lines and the FBI had set a $100,000 threshold for their agency to get involved, a police report said.
Hudson police reached out to police in Passaic, New Jersey, and learned the address where the Hudson couple sent the money had been involved in a fire a few months before.
Hudson police eventually concluded the address was likely a blind drop-off site for the scam and not connected to the scammers in any other way.
The Hudson woman, meanwhile, said in the lawsuit that she’s out $6,000, plus the $55 she spent to overnight the cash.
In an email Friday, a FedEx spokesman said, "We were just made aware of this lawsuit and are reviewing the allegations."
The FTC offers these tips to prevent getting scammed:
• Don’t send money right away, no matter how dramatic the story is.
• Call the family member or friend who claims to be in trouble, or check out the story with someone else in your circle, even if the caller tells you to keep it a secret.
• Be careful what you post on social media. Scammers can use that information against you.