It was just before Christmas when an elderly man rushed into an Ohio store with a family emergency on his mind. His beloved grandson had apparently been involved in a car accident. In fact, he had reportedly driven into a pregnant woman’s vehicle. The older man had been told that his grandson was now stuck in a jail cell, desperately waiting for someone to bail him out. But when he asked a clerk at the store to help him send the money, she wouldn’t budge.
The strange series of events began earlier that day when Cecil Rodgers received an unexpected phone call at his home in Cincinnati. The voice on the other end of the line told Cecil that it was his eldest grandson who was calling – and he was in big trouble.
Recounting his story to WCPO, Cecil said that his grandson had described how he had hit the car of a woman who was seven months pregnant. “They charged me with drunken driving, and I’m in jail,” the caller apparently said.
The phone was then passed to another man who said that he was Cecil’s grandson’s lawyer. The man said that he was trying to arrange bail – and he needed Cecil to transfer $2,300 for the bail bond.
To get the money to them, they wanted Cecil to use a Walmart store-to-store transfer. Cecil had heard everything that he needed. He set out, ready to send the money.
Just as he’d been told, Cecil took the money out of his bank account and headed to a local Walmart. But when he requested the transfer at the store, located in Evendale, the clerk who was serving him said no.
In fact, the woman at the counter – faced with a senior citizen who needed to bail out his grandson – point blank refused to help. The clerk on duty that day, Audrella Taylor, had worked for Walmart for five years. And when she heard what Cecil wanted, she instantly had a bad feeling.
“He said something about somebody was locked up in jail, he got a call, and he needed to send $2,000,” Audrella told WCPO. Suspicious, she told Cecil that she wouldn’t help him make the transfer.
Instead, Audrella warned the worried grandfather that she thought he was being scammed. “I said, ‘I am going to refuse the sender,’” she recalled. “‘I’m not going to let you send that money’”
Audrella said the fact that the “grandson” had called Cecil before anyone else was the first red flag for her. She believed that had the call been genuine, Cecil’s grandson would have contacted one of his parents first.
“Because his daughter hadn’t been contacted yet, I felt like if a son was in true need, the mom would have been contacted first before the grandpa would,” Audrella said. And her instincts would turn out to be on the mark.
So, rather than helping him with the transfer, Audrella urged Cecil to reach out to other family members to get more details and to find out just what was going on. And Cecil agreed with the plan.
When Cecil returned home and phoned his family, he learned that his grandson hadn’t been involved in an accident at all. In fact he was at college, and there was nothing to be concerned about. Had Cecil completed the transfer, though, he would have lost thousands of dollars to con men.
After his lucky escape, Cecil would later come forward with his story to thank the quick-thinking clerk. Indeed, she had prevented his family’s Christmas from being ruined.
“I don’t have much,” Cecil told WCPO – so one can only imagine that losing the money would have been tough for him. And had it not been for the intervention of the sharp-witted Walmart clerk, Cecil’s story might have had a very different conclusion.
This type of con is sadly becoming increasingly common in America. Indeed, figures released by the Justice Department suggest that some $3 billion is taken from elderly Americans every year. What’s more, many senior citizens refuse to report that they have been the victim of a crime due to embarrassment or because they fear that family members will subsequently seek to curtail their financial freedom.
Scammers often instruct their victims not to tell anyone about what is happening. This ensures that no friends or family members have the opportunity to question the details of the story – and it makes it even more difficult to protect older people from such incidents. It may also mean that many of these scams go undetected – as their victims never realize that they have been conned.
Fortunately, in Cecil’s case, the story had a happy ending. The Walmart store manager, Dominic Gross, praised Audrella for her quick thinking and the fact that she had helped save Rodgers from falling victim to the scam. “We are very happy with Audrella and all our customer service associates who help in that manner,” he told WCPO.
Staff are now trained to spot indicators that suggest individuals may have fallen victim to a scam if they are purchasing multiple gift cards or making substantial transfers. Individuals with older relatives would also do well to warn them to be skeptical should they receive cold calls asking them to send money.
Indeed, not everyone will be as lucky as Cecil Rodgers – and not everyone will be as vigilant as Audrella Taylor. So it’s vital that you share this story with older relatives, giving them some vital tips so they can avoid falling prey to con men.