By CLINT FOSTER
The Mineral Wells Police Department is investigating a theft in which a Mineral Wells woman was scammed out of thousands of dollars by a man over the phone claiming to be her grandson.
Police said the 75-year-old victim wired $4,038 in three separate Western Union transactions between Jan. 9 and 11 to her faux-grandson, who claimed to have been injured in an accident in Mexico and in legal trouble.
MWPD investigators have discovered the money was sent to “Distrito Federal Mexican” but have little other information regarding suspects. Police said they have contacted Western Union’s fraud department, but are unsure as to whether the victim will be able to get her money back.
Such fraud, particularly fraud perpetrated against elderly victim’s is not unusual. In July of last year, a Palo Pinto County jury convicted Paula Kay Freeman, 43, who pled guilty of writing 66 hot checks worth $27,300 out of a 73-year old Vietnam veteran’s account. Freeman was smacked with a $10,000 fine, $27,300 in restitution and a 75-year sentence in prison.
The verdict led District Attorney Mike Burns to give a presentation at the Mineral Wells Senior Center about the importance of seniors protecting themselves from such scams. He gave information concerning how to safeguard banking information and how to respond to scams through the mail, email and phone calls like the one that victimized the woman this month.
“These identity thieves target the elderly,” he said before the event.
MWPD’s public information officer, Lt. Randy Wright, warned all citizens against the dangers of fraud and to alway be on-guard.
“This thing has literally been going on for years,” he said of the general issue of fraud. “We’ve dealt with Ebay fraud, Craigslist fraud, even people setting up websites to buy a higher dog breed where people will send them money orders and never receive a dog. It’s always something.