An east side elderly couple got a phone call Tuesday from a policeman telling them their grandson was in serious trouble in Canada and they needed to send more than $4,000 to Bolivia to get him out of trouble.
The "loved one in trouble" scam, used often and successfully, especially on older adults, didn't work this time, with the couple first calling their grandson at college in Ohio (he was OK) then contacting Madison police.
"It (the story) was completely fabricated and without merit on any level," said the investigating officer when visiting the 77-year-old man and 78-year-old woman at their home in the 600 block of Whitehall Drive, Madison police said in a news release.
The scammer claimed he was Sgt. Robert Ableman of the Crawford Bay Police Department in British Columbia.
"He told the couple their grandson had been involved in a fatal crash, and to make matters worse, $35,000 worth of drugs was found in the trunk of his car," said police spokesman Joel DeSpain.
Sgt. Ableman said the couple needed to wire $4,100 to Celia Susana Melendez in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to get their grandson off the hook.
"Grandmother asked why Bolivia, if the crash was in Canada, and the scammer said embassies in Canada were closed and staff at the Santa Cruz embassy was being used," DeSpain said.
This didn't make sense to grandma and grandpa, so they first called their grandson in college to make sure he was OK, then they called police.
"The officer told the couple he'd been in Bolivia and there was no embassy in Santa Cruz," DeSpain said. "The U.S. embassy in Bolivia is in La Paz."
The officer then made a phone call to Sgt. Ableman.
"A man answered claiming to be Ableman, and the officer said the background noise was similar to what you would hear in a police department," DeSpain said.
The Madison officer asked to speak to the Crawford Bay officer in charge, and "Jackson Love" came on the line.
"After being asked questions pertaining to the call to the victims' home, 'Jackson Love' hung up," DeSpain said.
More investigating by the Madison officer showed there is no police department in Crawford Bay, British Columbia, with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police protecting the community.
"The officer told the couple they were in no danger, but they also should have no further contact with Sgt. Ableman," DeSpain said. "The couple was visibly upset but the officer reassured them they had done everything right."