The phone call came midday. My retired husband’s former colleague needed help. He’d been in a car crash, had broken his nose, and was in jail. Could we post bail? He gave us the number of the public defender assigned to him.
Alarmed, I made the call.
The attorney said our friend had failed the breathalyzer test and would go before the judge that day. Without $7500 bond money, he would stay in jail until his court date a month from now. The defender’s vague answers raised a red flag. He refused to verify what jail our friend was in. The phone connection sounded garbled, making him difficult to understand.
With the internet to help me, I researched the lockups in the city where our friend said he was. Couldn’t find him. I searched for the name of the attorney among the city’s prosecutors. Missing.
Red flags popped up at every turn.
As I continued further, I noticed all the connections provided me with a clear line—straightforward answers and no undecipherable conversations. No static on the line. I called our friend’s cell phone, which according to the attorney, was seized upon his arrest. No answer.
The next morning my husband wouldn’t relent until he had the truth about our friend’s whereabouts. I contacted the public defender asking if we could speak with our friend a second time. I also needed to know how to post bail. He said the fastest way was to send cash by secure carrier. I wasn’t comfortable with that, but I would do a wire transfer. He gave me an account number and routing number to use. Our friend called a few minutes later begging us to help him. He sounded legit. And—get this—like himself. We didn’t suspect an impostor.
I went to the bank and explained what I wanted to do. The bank employee dialed the fraud department for advice, then she called all the numbers I had earlier. Same results. She suggested enlisting the local police’s help. The officer I spoke with followed the path of phone numbers I had. The conclusion—this was an elaborate scam.
But where was our friend?
Minutes after the police became involved, the public defender’s phone number disconnected. The authorities suggested we call our friend and leave a message about what was happening.
Our friend called within the hour. “Are you guys pranking me?” When told about the last two days, he was astounded. He’d had to work and had turned off his cell phone. He’d only recently checked messages.
He’d never left town.
This scared all of us. Accurate references to our friend’s family, specifically his daughter, had been dangled throughout the ordeal. The scammer also had our name, address, and phone and knew we were connected with our friend. The felony charges came out of a former incident involving him.
We learned a lot. But thanks to the professional expertise of a bank employee who smelled a rat, coupled with advice to enlist the local police, we escaped the fate of losing $7500 to an unknown source.
Psalm 34:16 “ The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.”
Red flags to watch for:
Request for cash, Pressure to act quickly, Vague answers about anything, The law says the defendant is supposed to call family first, Refusal to take a check and wait for it to post, Any kind of urgency on the part of the scamming party, Phrases designed to shame you for not helping.
Protect yourself. Call the police FIRST!
I Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone He may devour.