Area couple are victims of fake grandson scam
An elderly Berkeley Springs man and his wife were recent victims of what is known as the fake grandson scam. Someone claiming to be Milton (Stewart) Garber and Marion Garber's grandson called them on March 2 saying that he was in trouble in Canada and needed $3,000 to stay out of jail.
Milton Garber rushed to the bank to withdraw the needed cash and drove to the Wal-Mart in Hagerstown to wire the money. Garber didn't have the additional $60 needed to wire the $3,000 and had gone back out to his truck to return to the bank.
A man that had been standing beside Garber at the Wal-Mart customer service desk robbed him in the parking lot. The suspect had seen the clerk counting out the money for the wire and followed Garber out to his truck.
The man knocked Garber
to the ground and took the
cash from his pocket. Garber, who is 79 years old, was
treated at Washington County Hospital for injuries suffered during the assault and was released.
The suspect, a white male in his 20s, was wearing a white or off-white three-button pullover shirt, blue jeans and a dark baseball hat. He was captured on film on the Wal-Mart surveillance camera. The suspect left the scene of the crime in a maroon vehicle.
Hagerstown police responded to the incident and are investigating. Hagerstown Police Detective Christopher Kayser felt that the two crimes were unrelated. He felt that the robbery at Wal-Mart was "a crime of opportunity." Kayser had heard of the fake grandson scam before.
Garber still has bruises from the attack, but the couple is grateful that he wasn't more seriously injured.
His wife Marian Garber agreed to tell their story in the hopes that it would keep the same scam from happening to someone else. She took the original call from the scammer that morning.
Never said his name
The caller's first words were "Hi, Grandma. This is your grandson." Marian Garber instantly thought it was their grandson Michael, who works in Hedgesville and who sometimes comes over for lunch. She said she should have suspected something when he
didn't say his name.
When she asked him if he was coming to lunch, the guy said, "No, I'm in Toronto, Canada."
He explained that he was up there ice fishing with some friends and that some of the fellows got into a fight. He had tried to break it up and got arrested. The caller said he needed $3,000 to stay out of jail and that he would explain it all to them when he got home. He also said he'd pay them back the money, said Garber.
continues on page 5)
When she asked him why he didn't call his mother instead, the caller said he didn't want to upset her and wanted to talk to someone that would stay calm.
The man that was pretending to be her grandson instructed her to send the money from Wal-Mart's as a money-gram and that it had to be cash. They were given an address in Toronto, Ontario to send the money. Her husband went to the bank and withdrew the money, which was the money to pay their next month's bills, she said.
Marian Garber told him the transaction would take around an hour because all of the Wal-Marts in Hagerstown, Winchester or Martinsburg were pretty far away. The man didn't tell her which Wal-Mart to go to, she noted. He told her he would call back in a couple of hours to get the receipt number for the wire.
Around two to three hours later, the man called back and said to her, "What happened at the Wal-Mart? You were supposed to send me some money."
She asked him what his name was. He hung up and never called back, she said.
Grandson was really
Marion Garber called the couple's daughter, who quickly confirmed that their grandson was really at work and was not in Canada.
The Garbers were sorry that they fell for the scam. When it involves a member of your family, you just want to help, said Garber. The caller was so convincing, she said.
"I guess we're too trusting and think people are honest," said Garber.
She was thankful that her husband didn't have any broken bones. He's still pretty black and blue, she said.
"It was an expensive lesson," said Garber.
Anyone who has information about the robbery or the possible identity of the suspect may call the Hagerstown Police Department at 301-739-6000.