Reporting Suzanne Le Mignot
ROUND LAKE BEACH, Ill. (CBS) – A grandmother in far north suburban Round Lake Beach was scammed out of more than $4,000 after getting a frantic call from a person she believed was her granddaughter.
“She said, ‘Grandma, this is Audrey,’” Dorothy Swanson said.
CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports Swanson became a victim of a so-called “family in distress scam,” because she believed the person on the other end of the phone was her granddaughter, in need of help right away.
“I said, what’s the matter honey? And she said, ‘I’m in trouble Grandma,’ and she was crying,” Swanson said. “She said that she had gotten herself in trouble, had been thrown into a Mexican jail.”
Swanson had 14 phone calls from “Audrey” in two days. The grandmother of three suffers from genetic pulmonary hypertension. She needs oxygen around the clock, or she’ll die.
After getting those calls, she summoned the strength to go to MoneyGram to wire $4,200 to Mexico to help.
“I was dead sure it was Audrey,” she said, adding that the caller’s voice sounded just like Audrey.
Even though the woman told Swanson, to “not call mom,” Swanson did it anyway.
“I called my daughter, and I said ‘Your daughter is in Mexico, and she’s in trouble,’ and she said, ‘Mom, she’s here in the kitchen,’” Swanson said. “I’m still standing, but I nearly dropped dead. … “It was earth-shattering, because then I knew I had been had.”
Her real granddaughter, Audrey Rickert, said, “It’s incredibly sad that somebody feels that they have to go and prey on our senior citizens.”
Swanson said, “The important thing is that people find out about this, and people know about it; far more important to me than the money.”
That’s why Swanson said she wanted to share her story. She said she believes the Internet played a role in revealing her granddaughter’s name to the swindler. Swanson said police have launched an investigation into the crime.