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Now in their 70s, a married couple in Georgia had never used an ATM in their lives — until one nerve-racking day last spring. On May 12, the couple fed several $100 bills into a Wells Fargo automated teller machine near their suburban Atlanta home. In two deposits made within a few hours, they parted with $4,800 in cash.
A criminal with a fake name, along with accomplices, had instructed the couple to deposit the money into the Wells Fargo ATM, which accepts cash even if it's not placed in an envelope. This “no-envelope” technology has been around for years. The couple, who weren't Wells Fargo customers, didn't need a bank card to make the deposits because a crook gave them eight-digit “access codes” and a four-digit PIN.
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The ATM never spit out a receipt, according to couple, who alerted police, their credit union and Wells Fargo on the day they were victimized. They also called AARP's Fraud Watch Helpline, 877-908-3360.
Talking about the ATM, the husband says: “It was a one-armed bandit — just took our money. Didn't even say ‘Thank you.’ No voice, no paper, nothing. Cold, like the crook."
A textbook ‘grandparent scam'
The husband, 71, and his wife, 77, spoke to AARP about their ordeal, but are not being named in this story. Married for 42 years, they parted with a portion of their retirement nest egg due to a “Grandparent Scam,” which is sometimes called a “Granny Scam.” They were misled into believing their oldest grandson, 18, was in trouble with the law.
The wife, retired after 50 years with major airlines, ordinarily steers clear of fraud; she has hung up on an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) impersonator in the past. In May, though, she thinks she was blindsided when her “grandson” called due to the timing: Already she and her husband were anxious about COVID-19 and locked down at home. “If I had said, ‘No. Call your mom,’ we wouldn't have gotten hit,” she says.