Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Martha’s Jury Duty Scam

A woman gets a message saying she's missed jury duty—and there's a warrant out for her arrest

spinner image the perfect scam podcast episode 2


Subscribe:   Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn

The Setup

Martha gets a message from the police department saying she's missed jury duty and there’s a warrant out for her arrest. In order to avoid being arrestedj, she needs to send $1,000 to the “courthouse” immediately. Wanting to do the right thing and not get in trouble with the law, Martha follows the instructions from the man on the other line of the phone. After a goose chase around town — in which she purchases reloadable money cards and fears the police are following her — Martha sends the “courthouse” the money.

The Takeaway

Caller ID can be manipulated. So always stop and verify whom you are speaking to by hanging up and calling back on a number you’ve verified. If you receive a robocall, hang up right away. If you feel like you’re being scammed, call the AARP Fraud Watch Network’s call center and report it.

spinner image TPS quote ep 2
Full Transcript

[00:00:00] HOST: Coming up on this episode, of AARP's Perfect Scam.

[00:00:04] After I did that, then I hung up, then I realized what had happened. I started playing it back inmy head. I said, no, this doesn't make any sense.

[00:00:11] HOST: Most of us know that jury duty is just a fact of life. When weget the letter in the mail to appear, we know we need to tell our boss, take time off work, make plans for childcare, or rearrange our normal schedule. So, if you get a call that you had missed jury duty, your heart might skip a beat or two, and you might even believe it if the caller told you there's a warrant out for you, but you can avoid all that if you just pay a fine. If this makes you suspicious, you are right to be. It's a scam. On today's episode, you'll hear the story of a woman who was the victim of a jury duty scam, and we'll tell you what to look out for and what to know in case you get a call like this. We'll get to all that, but first I'd like to introduce you to my cohost and AARP's Fraud Watch Network Ambassador, Frank Abagnale. Frank, thanks for joining us once again.

[00:00:52] Frank Abagnale: Great to be back. Thanks.

[00:00:54] HOST: Frank, let me ask you a question, so it was a few yearsago that Leonardo di Caprio played you in the movie and so, you're a little older. So if people don't recognize you on the street, once they get to knowwho you are, does anybody not have a question about a fraud or a scam thatthey want to ask you?

[00:01:11] Frank Abagnale: That's constantly. The minute they know who I am and they all have had a scam. If I'm just in a cab and the driver recognizesme and say it's immediate, not about how was the movie, it's about, let me tell you what happened to me. Somebody sent me this, yeah, I mean they tell me about all these scams that were perpetrated against them all the time.

[00:01:27] HOST: And do you hear about new ones every day or is it harder to come by?

[00:01:30] Frank Abagnale: No, there's new scams. You know, all scams pretty much work off the same type way they perform and the way they act and the way they play out, but there are all types of scams and they have to do a lot of timeswith what's going on in the news, what's going on at the current time, and then they just play on that, but they pretty much all work the same. The same way with Ponzi scams, they all work basically the same way, it's just the different investment or a different type of thing they're selling orgetting you to get involved in, and yeah.

[00:01:57] HOST: I know you're asked about this, but scams, when you were a youngster compared to today, is it harder or easier?

[00:02:05] Frank Abagnale: It's, it's really a thousand times easier. You have to think back to, you know, 40, 50 years ago, there truly were con men, and the con men comes from the word of confidence men. They were people who gained your confidence.

[00:02:17] HOST: What about Dirty Rotten Scoundrels? Have you ever seen that movie?

[00:02:20] Frank Abagnale: I don't know if I've ever seen it.

[00:02:21] HOST: With Steve Martin.[00:02:21] Frank Abagnale: No.

[00:02:22] HOST: Watch it. It's great actually, it's with Michael Caine.

[00:02:26] Frank Abagnale: Yeah, I'm not a big movie goer, so that's why.

[00:02:28] HOST: You don't have time.

[00:02:30] Frank Abagnale: You know, you could say in reality that a good salesman, a car salesman, a good marketing person is basically has the same ability of a good confidence man, they're gainingyour confidence, but they're playing within the lines of the law, where the, the con man is playing outside the lines of the law and trying to convince you to do something that you probably wouldn't normally do. But again, back then it was just you one onone with that individual, so the con man was a well-dressed, had a great vocabulary, he was well spoken, he was presented himself very well, he immediately got your trust just in his appearance. Today, there are very few con men because it's all done by telephone, by email, on the internet, and most of the time and many times the con person is sitting in Moscow in their pajamas with a cup of coffee on their laptop. Thousands and thousands of miles away, so they don't see the victim, and the victim doesn't see them, so there's no emotion getting involved because they don't feel bad about the person because they're never seeing the person. They're only dealing with them on words on the screen, or they're dealing with, they're on the phone.

[00:03:38] HOST: Yeah,
so a big difference from sort of the more of the romanticized version of, of
even what you were doing which had like a romantic element to it.

[00:03:45] Frank
Abagnale: Yeah, and then it's all just electronic internet, telephone, and but
I think that makes it easier for the 1) for the person to commit the crime
because they're dealing with someone's emotion, or they get involved and say,
do I really want to rip off this person, I've kind of gotten to like them, or
and on the other side you get the person who doesn't see the individual, so
they seem to be more trusting though they're not even having personal contact
with them.

[00:04:14] HOST: Did
you run into that? Did you get to know people and over time, I know we talked
about one young woman who you've met and you actually, she was one of the few
people that you actually told what you were up to, but did you have
difficulties with that over time?

[00:04:26] Frank
Abagnale: Yeah for example, then that's a good point, for example, when I
started going in banks cashing checks at 16, I didn't think anything about it.
I was a 16-year-old who thought to himself, well this bank has billions of
dollars. I'm going to go in here and cash a $500 check. It's not going to ruin
this bank, okay? But as I got older and got to be 19, 20, I would walk in the
bank and convince the teller to cash the check. He or she weren't supposed to
cash it, but I talked them into cashing it and then when I left, I thought to
myself, you know, I hope this teller doesn't lose her job because I told her to
do something or convinced her to do something, so my conscience just as
maturity came along was starting to bother me more and more about what I was
doing, because I wasn't thinking of it as the adolescent, I was starting to
think of it as more of the adult as I got older.

[00:05:16] HOST: Did
you ever, did you ever repeat banks, or did you always have to shift, mix it up
in terms of where you cashed checks?

[00:05:21] Frank
Abagnale: No, sometimes what, what made me very successful I think is that I
really studied the things I did, so when I started writing checks, I asked
myself the question, what are all these numbers on the bottom of the check?
What do they mean? And if you asked the teller, they said, I don't know, you
know? And so, so I went to the library, cause I wanted to know, what are these
numbers? And the numbers were basically like a zip code, and it basically told
you what federal reserve, what branch, and then what bank it belonged to, so
that's how it got it back to that location. So, I said to myself, if there's 12
federal reserve banks and they go 1 to 12 and 1-0 being Boston, 12 being San
Francisco, if I was to take a check out of New York bank which would be 02, and
drop the 0 and make that a 1, when I cash the check, it'll go to San Francisco.
And by the time it gets to San Francisco, and they realize it's a forgery, they
have to send it all the way back to New York, that'll give me 10 days, 2 weeks
to cash those checks. So, this is why I was able to go into a bank and
purposely make sure you did remember me. So, I'd say to the teller, start
talking about something, maybe cars or something with the teller and they'd
remember me so that when I cash that check, I'd come back 10 days later and
say, "Hi," "Oh I remember you." "I was talking to you
about those Corvettes and stuff." "Yeah, that's right." "I
got another one of those cashiers' checks." Well, in the teller's mind it
had to clear. It's been 10 days, so that check was good, I'll cash this check
for you. So, I manipulated those numbers to cause float, and then I realized
that 021 was Honolulu, so I even got more so I would change 0 to 121, to 121
which brought me from Honolulu from 021 which was Manhattan.

[00:07:05] HOST:
Maybe you're too humble to give yourself credit for being smart, but not
everybody's thinking like this, Frank, okay? I mean you were, you were like 16
and I was like you know sleeping in the back of history class while you were
making a lot of money.

[00:07:16] Frank
Abagnale: Well, you know, I was thinking that if you're going to do this thing,
you have to understand how it works. I was so surprised that the people who
worked there didn't know and I'd say, how could they not know what these
numbers mean? They work here. They have no concept of what the numbers mean on
the check.

[00:07:31] HOST: Were
there, like a fair number of other Frank Abagnales like running around during
this time, not with the same name, but other con men doing similar check fraud
scams that you were?

[00:07:39] Frank
Abagnale: I'm sure there were. I don’t know if they were doing it like me, but
they were out cash, forging checks, and you know technology has made, check
forgery today is very big because the technology has made it so easy to
replicate a check or produce a check. Where back in my day, you know you had to
have a million-dollar printing press, there were color separations, negatives,
plates, typesetting. Today you sit down, you open your laptop, you bring up a
diagram of a check, and then you go capture a company's corporate logo and you
put it on the check, capture the bank's corporate logo, put it on the check,
and fill in the graphics in the background, then go down to the office supply
store, buy some check paper and print it out on your inkjet printer. So
certainly, technology's made what I did a lot, lot easier.

[00:08:22] HOST: And
one of your first, correct me if I'm wrong, big purchases right when you were
doing this was, was a printing, a machine that would print checks, right?

[00:08:29] Frank
Abagnale: Well what I did was to finally get to the big printing press, I had
met a girl...

[00:08:33] HOST: Was
that in France?

[00:08:34] Frank
Abagnale: That was in France.

[00:08:34] HOST:
That's where you ended up. Okay.

[00:08:35] Frank
Abagnale: And I met a girl and she just happened to tell me, my dad owns a
printing shop. So, I said, I have a real interest in printing, so she took me
back to meet the, meet her dad in the printing shop, and then the dad thought I
worked with Pan Am, so I said to the dad, he was going on vacation and I said
when you go on vacation what do you do with your shop? "Oh no, I close
down, I go to Southern France for two weeks." I said, "Well you know,
Pan Am would like to rent your print shop because they're going to run a
promotional program and they'd like to be able to operate and use your presses
here locally. They bring in their own printers and all that," and the dad said,
"Yeah, I can make some money renting it, fine." So, then I got into
the print shop. But you had to learn how do all those things, too, as well,
just like if you do graphic art, you learn how to manipulate the computer.

[00:09:18] HOST: So,
you were in the print shop by yourself printing out checks that would go across

[00:09:21] Frank
Abagnale: Right, and Stephen Spielberg remembered reading in an old newspaper
article from France about that I had built scaffoldings on the press, and so he
built scaffoldings and found the same press, but he built scaffolding because I
said, you had to really operate it with two or three other operators, so being
a teenager I could run the length of the press and operate it, so I built the
scaffolding so I could run down to one end of the press, operate it, so that
scene in the movie was...

[00:09:48] HOST:
Yeah, I was going to ask you, you look like you're kind of gone going a little
bit wild.

[00:08:30] Frank
Abagnale: Yeah that's exactly what I was, on the machine, because it was hard
to control the machine at the speed it printed, and all that, so I had a lot of
mistakes, but I was going to figure out how to do it and all.

[00:10:02] HOST: We
are so lucky to have you. Alright, for anybody, we do reference the movie a
lot, but it's Frank's book and life that Spielberg directed, Catch Me If You
Can. Alright, Frank, we're going to digress on each one of these episodes, but
let's get back to the topic at hand which is this week; jury duty fraud. That's
a big one, right?

[00:10:19] Frank
Abagnale: Right, yeah, absolutely.

[00:10:20] HOST: And
it's a phone call. I'm going to introduce you to Martha this week. She
describes herself as a regular working person with grown children and she
actually goes to South America to do some good work for people there, and she
had a message waiting for her on her phone when she returned.


[00:10:37] Martha: I
got the message, the person says, "This is Sergeant So and So. We need to
talk to you about a warrant, and nothing to alarm you about. But we would like
to talk to you. Here's our number, please call us back."

[00:10:56] HOST: Do
you remember sort of what that feeling was like that day when you first got
that message and what you were doing?

[00:11:03] Martha: I
got the message. I didn't think much about it. Didn't think about it. I didn't
think about it. I called the number. I left a message, because when I called I
did get the answering machine says, "You have reached my county's police
desk, we're not unable to take your call now, please leave a message and we'll
call you again."

[00:11:28] HOST: Did
you get, did it sound like the same voice that left a message for you?

[00:11:31] Martha: It
sounds like, yes.

[00:11:31] HOST: The
so-called sheriff.

[00:11:33] Martha:
The so-called sergeant from police, from the police department.

[00:11:38] HOST: And
so, now you’re having an actual conversation with somebody who claims they're
from the police department, and tell us how that went.

[00:11:44] Martha: He
says that this is Sergeant So and So. He used the same name, as a matter of
fact, I have to also say that when I made the call before, I was transferred,
cause when I made the initial call, when I got the first call and then I
called, somebody answered the phone. I said I would like to speak to Sergeant
So and So. And the person says, "Let me transfer you." And when I transferred,
that's when then I was, I got this voicemail. So to me, that was authentic.

[00:12:14] HOST: She
eventually got a call back from the sergeant. Over the phone he told her she
had missed jury duty and they had a warrant out for her.

[00:12:20] Martha: He
said to me, I have this on recording, "Am I talking to," and he said
my name, my full name, my address, and my birthdate.

[00:12:30] HOST: He
asked that of you?

[00:12:32] Martha:
Yes. No, no, he didn't ask me. He told me.

[00:12:34] HOST: Oh,
he told you, right. So he had a bunch of details up at the start of the call

[00:12:40] Martha: He
told me that, yes.

[00:12:41] HOST:

[00:12:41] Martha:
That's one of the things that, after he told me that, then I said that it must
be true.

[00:12:45] HOST: At
that point, was there anything in your mind that felt like you had actually
missed a jury duty or are you just assumed that you hadn't got the notice, or
what was going through your mind?

[00:12:54] Martha: I
am, I started thinking back, and I said, "You know, I never got a jury
duty summons." And I said, since, and I asked, I said, "Since when
were people given warrants if you don't show up for jury duty?" And he
said, "This is the new law in Florida."

[00:13:12] HOST: Oh,
the new law. So, at this point, again, this may seem like a new situation and
something you're not familiar with, but were you doubting the story at this
point or it seemed all real?

[00:13:25] Martha: At
this point, it seemed all, kind of real because at one point I asked, I said,
well if this is a warrant, then you need to talk to my lawyer. And he said to
me, "Oh no, this is, it's not that kind of a warrant. You don't need to,
you don't need to get a lawyer involved because a lawyer will cost you more
money than the, than if you just pay a summons."

[00:13:52] HOST: I'm
sure, I'm sure he was eager not to involve a lawyer given what he was trying to
do, right?

[00:13:58] Martha:
Yes. Yes, he said that a lawyer would cost you much more money than if you paid
the summons.

[00:14:04] HOST: And
so much was the summon and what happened next?

[00:14:06] Martha: He
said that this is, you know you can, no, he said, "You can either come in
or pay the summon."

[00:14:16] HOST: Or

[00:14:18] Martha: Or
you can come, you can come into the police station and he said to me, "But
you coming to the police station that could, that could put you at risk of being

[00:14:29] HOST: Oh
my goodness. So that sounds like the tone changes a little bit when he brings
up something like that, that he's saying don't be alarmed, no big deal, but you
owe money and you might get arrested if you don't pay it, right?

[00:14:43] Martha:
Yes. Yes.

[00:14:44] HOST:

[00:14:45] Martha:
And then he, he continues saying, "This is something we could do over the

[00:14:49] HOST:
Which at that point you were eager to do.

[00:14:52] Martha: I
was, yes, I just wanted to do it and get it over with.

[00:14:55] HOST: What
did he sound like? Did he sound threatening to you or was there...

[00:15:00] Martha: I
think more, he did not sound, no, no threat. Now, in retrospect, when I think
about it, when I speak to sergeants at police station, that doesn't sound so

[00:15:13] HOST:

[00:15:15] Martha: He
was overly nice.

[00:15:15] HOST: So
you're saying he was a little overly friendly, I got it.

[00:15:18] Martha:

[00:15:20] HOST:
Here's where things start to get weird. He tells her to go to a Winn-Dixie
about 15 minutes away and get a money order. But she's supposed to stay on the
line the whole time.

[00:15:30] Martha:
And he said, what I want you to do, you're going to keep your phone on when you
get in your car.

[00:15:36] HOST: He's
just sitting on the other line while you're then going to drive to the store.

[00:15:40] Martha:
Yes. He said, "Leave your phone on, put it next to you, and then you're
going to drive," and I said, "What's the point of the phone being
on?" He said, "In case you get stopped by the police because of this
warrant, so I can tell them that you are taking care of this already." I
got to the Winn-Dixie, and I told him that I got there and he said, “You’re
going to go in," and he told me and he's real familiar with the
Winn-Dixie, he said to me, "You go in, go to the customer service desk, to
the," now I'm thinking of, when I got there, and he said, "You go
into right on the right, on the outside of the customer service desk, you'll
see these cards you know, hanging. And you just..." he gave me the name of
the cards to get, and he said, "Just get these two cards and have them put
$500 on each."

[00:16:30] HOST:
Martha, was this guy, did you think he was standing right inside the store or

[00:16:33] Martha:
Yes. Yes, you would think that, yes.

[00:16:35] HOST: Did
you ever find out where, I mean it sounds like he's very familiar with this,
this location.

[00:16:40] Martha: I
found out later on that he's not, it's not, he's not too far from the area.

[00:16:45] HOST:

[00:16:46] Martha:
And he did tell me, "After you get the card, just walk out and come back
to the car and then pick up, get on your phone."

[00:16:53] HOST: Once
back in the car, he asked her for the numbers on the back of the cards. He then
leads her to a post office with the phone still on, but before getting there,
he goes through this whole thing of going to the police station.

[00:17:04] Martha: He
said to me, "You're going to come to the police station." And for,
and the place, "and here's the number. Here's the address and come to the
police station." And he said, I said, "Why?" He said to me,
"So you can bring the cards." And so on the way to the police
station, the address he gave me, then he, he said, "Hello, hello?"
Then he spoke to me, he said, "Don't come to the police station because my
boss, who was here was going to talk to you and take this card from you is not
here anymore, he had to go out on an emergency. It is best that you mail these
cards to us."

[00:17:40] HOST: Do
you think that was just another part of his, of his way of tricking you into
thinking this was real?

[00:17:44] Martha: Oh
yes, yes. Uh-huh, I think so.

[00:17:46] HOST: So
his plan all along was to say, sure, come on in, but now don't come in, okay,

[00:17:50] Martha:
Yes, exactly. I think it was his plan because the address he gave me for the
police station is a real address.

[00:17:56] HOST: So
from the beginning to where you are now in the story, you’ve been on the phone
with this guy for, for an hour?

[00:18:03] Martha:
Yes. Yes, about that.

[00:18:04] HOST:

[00:18:05] Martha:
Could be, could be that.

[00:18:07] HOST: She
mails the money, and then he even sets up an appointment for her to go deal
with the jury duty a few days later.

[00:18:13] HOST: So
did you go to some address two days later?

[00:18:16] Martha:
No. because after I did that, then I hung up, then I realized what had

[00:18:20] HOST: How
did you realize? What, what happened?

[00:18:22] Martha:
Then I started playing it back in my head. I started playing it back in my
head. I said, no, this doesn't make any sense.

[00:18:30] HOST: And
what, what did that feel like? Were you starting... it seems like you’ve been
relatively calm so far because you're taking care of something.

[00:18:38] Martha:
Then, it felt like, I felt violated. I felt like, I felt I got, I was angry. I
was, I mean I just felt like this person invaded my life. I'm also thinking,
this person could have, I could have gone to this person's place and then
something worse could have happened.

[00:18:58] HOST:

[00:18:59] Martha:
Because I let this person you know, talk me into driving so far. And then I'm
thinking, that he has said my name, my address and my date of birth, where did
he get them? And I said, you know, he probably got them from online. You know
I'm, everything is playing in my mind, and right away I made a call to my
sheriff's office in my town.

[00:19:26] HOST:
Martha didn't get the money back despite reaching out to authorities. The
scammer got away with it, and like most victims of a scam, she dealt with
anxiety and even shame.

[00:19:36] Martha:
I'm an educated person, and I fell for this, so it could have happened to

[00:19:41] HOST: Talk
to us about your emotions throughout all this. I'm sure there was some anger.
What did you feel when you first found out that this, when you first realized
this was a scam and...

[00:19:51] Martha:
Anger, fear. I felt this person, if this person, this person could come to my
house, because they have, this person has my, my address. And I felt, I felt

[00:20:12] HOST: You
kind of lose your faith in people a little bit, I imagine.

[00:20:14] Martha:
Uh-huh, yes, I did.

[00:20:15] HOST: And
have you been able to talk to people about it or tell the story or is it too
hard to sort of...

[00:20:19] Martha: It
is, it is too hard to tell the, until I, afterwards and I went on AARP web--,
no, AARP website, and when I got the magazine from AARP and they were talking
about frauds and there was a website address that you could go to AARP that,
that you can tell your story and that's what I did.

[00:20:43] HOST:
Yeah, and that's how we...

[00:20:44] Martha:
That was the only one, that's the only one thing I did. I didn't tell, I didn't
talk to anybody else.

[00:20:48] HOST: But
also, like many of our fraud victims, she wants to make sure that others don't
get scammed.

[00:20:53] Martha: I
hope it can help you know somebody else and also what I also realize is that
these people all they do is sit around and think of ways to con other people.
That's their job.


[00:21:08] HOST: So
Frank, in listening to this story, one thing, I feel like I came across almost
as a little gullible when I say it almost sounds like the guy's in the store.
He's probably clearly not in the store.

[00:21:17] Frank
Abagnale: No, I don't think the guy was in the store, and he had no reason to
even make her go to the post office and mail it other than to make it sound
more legitimate, because he already had the numbers, so he had access to the
money. And who knows where he was. He could be familiar with the store, and most
of those stores are all set up the same, so if you've been in one of those
stores, you know what the other store looks like and where those cashier's
office is, and where the, the customer service desk is, so he may have been
familiar with that particular store, or just the way those stores are laid out
wherever he, he may have been.

[00:21:54] HOST: And
the jury duty scam, this is, fits into just sort of the category of hey, we've
got warrant for you, kind of scam, or...

[00:22:01] Frank
Abagnale: I, I think it's just a scenario that someone made up and sounds good.
Of course, you know, if you wouldn't have a warrant issued to you, and again,
as you had pointed out to her, the whole thing about, I'll give you the police
department's address, come down here, that was just to keep building
credibility to the story, so that he, he had no intention of you going to the
police department, but it helped him bring credibility to what he was saying.
You know, it's just, it's just another scam. Again, she was starting to figure
it out because obviously no city municipality would work like that, nothing
would be done in that way, and this gets back to that original thing of always
stop and verify. So I would have hung up and would have called the city and
said, I was supposed, got this call that I was supposed to be at jury duty and
now they claim there's a warrant for me, and they would have said, no ma'am,
that's not, that's not true and they'd probably let her know it was a scam. Uh,
but again, before you go act out these things, or go get money for somebody,
especially anytime what we call a green dot card where someone's telling you to
get money on a card and then you just give them the number of the card, no
one's going to tell you to pay them like that. So all those things should raise
red flags that I need to stop at this moment and find out if this is the truth.

[00:23:18] HOST: I
wish I had Frank Abagnale to call anytime I feel like there's maybe something
going on that looks fishy in my life and, and I'm sure a lot of people feel
that way.

[00:23:26] Frank
Abagnale: And you do, because you have the, the Fraud Watch Network through
AARP and their toll-free number where you always speak to a live person, and
obviously I work with them very closely to make sure those people you are
speaking to on the phone know about these scams and know how to detect them and
tell you what to do, so you do have a great resource. It's like having Frank
Abagnale at AARP 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

[00:23:48] HOST:
There you go. If only Martha had picked up the phone and called the Fraud Watch
Network. I'm wondering as I listen to this, this story too, and I ask her about
sort of not being able to trust people and in your line of work, do you feel
like there's sort of this cultural shift or there's an anxiety associated with
frauds and scams and technology that maybe wasn't as prevalent 10, 15, 20 years

[00:24:08] Frank
Abagnale: Yeah, I think so. I don't think there were all the frauds that we see
today and that's just because the delivery has made it so easy. And again, that
it's not, you're not having contact with the individual, that it can be done,
you know, through the internet and over the telephone, and through the mail. So
I think we see a lot more of these scams today, and again, you don't have the
guy really having any remorse or feeling bad about the victim because they're,
they're not seeing the victim, it's just a voice on a phone to them.

[00:24:35] HOST: This
one also has, as you mentioned the hallmarks of a lot of scams where there's
credibility built in, he takes his time, and stays on the phone while she's
driving there, in fact, I don't know if it's that common, but stays on the
phone, keeps someone with him at all times.

[00:24:52] Frank
Abagnale: Yeah, and the purpose of that is more about she, they don't want you
to start thinking it through, so maybe on the drive there you start going, you
know what, I think this is something a little fishy about this, I'm not going
to follow through with this and then they lose you, so while they have you on
the hook they want to keep you on the hook; so keeping you on the phone, if you
start to have any doubts, they're going to walk you through it and say no, no,
this is the way we do it and all that, and that, that's the whole purpose of
that. It's not really tracking her or tracing her, it's more about making sure
they don't lose you.

[00:25:22] HOST: That
gets into also too, and we need to get into this 800 numbers, and local numbers
and how people go about doing this. Can you, can you pull back the curtain a
little bit on phone numbers and can we rely on anything that we see when it
comes up on caller ID?

[00:25:36] Frank
Abagnale: You know you, you have to, you have to, caller ID can be easily
manipulated, so and there are hundreds and hundreds of phone numbers that can
be used, thrown away, reused again, so even though you may block a call, they
just use another number to, to reach you, so there's really nothing to be much
determined by where the call's coming from, and sometimes they come from your
local area, they come from a place not far away from you or somewhere across
the country, so there's not much to be gained by the, the phone number. The
question is, whatever someone's offering you to do over the phone, if it says
it's urgent, it has to be done immediately, and it requires you providing
money, no matter how that money's provided, that should be a red flag to you to
stop and verify that you, you, who you're speaking to and that it's a
legitimate call. So, for example, if I say I'm your fraud department at your
bank, and you need to do something, and you need to do it right away, I can go
get my credit card out of my wallet, turn it over, and there's an 800 number on
the back to my customer service. I'm calling them directly and say I just got a
call from your fraud department, said that I have to do this and do that and
they're going to probably tell you that, that's not correct and that's a scam,
do not respond to that. So it's a matter of taking a few minutes to check it
out. There's nothing wrong with taking that moment to verify something so you
don't part with your money.

[00:26:56] HOST: And
how do scammers go about, is it burner phones, you go buy a phone. Is that how
they're primarily done?

[00:26:59] Frank
Abagnale: Yeah, they use throw away phones, and they, they also buy lots of
phone numbers, calling numbers that are just one-way callers where they can
call you, but you can't call them. Uh, you know, and...

[00:27:10] HOST:
Where do you buy that?

[00:27:11] Frank
Abagnale: They buy them legitimate through the phone company but as a
telemarketing company where they use a phony name to set up the company and buy
the, the phone numbers, and also, I always remind people on robo calls, they're
using very sophisticated software so that the more you stay on the phone, the
more likely they're going to keep calling you back or sell your number. If I'm
a caller, calling you on a robo call, and the call says I've only registered
three or four seconds on the phone with you, I'm not going to sell your number
or reuse your number. But if I have a live wire, someone who's listening to my
pitch or maybe I'd tell you press this prompt, press that prompt, you're doing
all that; the more likely you're going to get more robo calls, so the way to
get out of robo calls is just to, the minute you identify the person says, this
is so and so, or this is the IRS, you know that's a scam, you just hang up the,
hang up the phone. I wouldn't listen to the messages that, that are out there.

[00:28:04] HOST: And
that gets into this whole thing also of once you've been scammed, it can happen
again and sometimes people really get into...

[00:28:09] Frank
Abagnale: Right because they sell those lists. Just like mailing lists that marketers
sell every day, look how much money companies make, like credit bureaus that
sell your name and your information, that's where they make the majority of
their money. Well, it's the same way with criminals. They, they not only
scammed you, but then they make money selling you that this is a easy target
for somebody else.

[00:28:28] HOST: And
they go on the dark web to some extent which I feel like we could probably do a
whole episode on the dark web.

[00:28:33] Frank
Abagnale: Right, and selling information.

[00:28:36] HOST:
Alright. So she clearly got into a situation and realized kind of quickly that
maybe this was a scam and I assume that happens to people too, once they're out
of that moment of urgency, they realize oh shoot, I wish I hadn't have done

[00:28:49] Frank
Abagnale: Right, and I don't know that I would have, if I had been that guy,
and I was committing that scam, I don't know that I would have gotten into all
that being so elaborate. I would have simply said, this is the, the court in
your, in your town and you failed to make this. There is a fee you have to pay.
Not there's a warrant. There's a fee you need to pay otherwise you will have a
warrant issued, and of course, the person will go, I would make the fee
reasonable, so you start saying $500, then people start going, whoa, that's a
lot of money. I'd have said, you know there's a $100 fee to be paid and you can
pay that on your credit card, or you can come down. You always give them the
option, so they feel the credibility there, and if they say, well then well
I'll come down, then you just kind of hang up and move onto the next call. But
if they say, well no, I don't want to go through all that, that's too much
trouble, I work and all of that, well you can give me your credit card over the
phone. That's the easiest thing, because people so easily go, well no, let me
just pay that. Can I pay that on the phone with my credit card and I'd a gotten
the credit card out? I don't think I would have gone through all, how elaborate
this person went through to get...

[00:29:51] HOST: And
I think he'd gotten the money and then even gave her a, a date two days later.

[00:29:55] Frank
Abagnale: Yeah, exactly, all that is credibility building, that's all, to make
it all sound very legitimate. And even after he gets the money, he wants you to
think it was a legitimate thing, so that you don't turn around and go, call the
police or anything that you say, oh that happened, but I took care of it and I
had a nice guy walk me through it, and that was the end of it. Even that, go to
the post office and mail it, just to make it sound legitimate, that's all that

[00:30:17] HOST: I
was in the, a market for a new phone over the weekend and the guy in the store
was such a great salesman, and you know I knew he was. It was kind of part of
his schtick, but he was really good at it, and you know gave me all the options
and why I needed this and that, and but I got this, you know I've been
researching and working on this show for a while, and I was almost suspicious
of this guy cause I felt like, man, he's really good at this, but it made me
feel like wow, if this were a scammer on the phone, people who are good at
doing this are really good at it.

[00:30:46] Frank
Abagnale: Right, and that's why I try to remind people that that, that
personality, that trade of a, a car salesman, a good marketer, it's the same
trait the con man has, only one is working within the guidelines of the law and
wouldn't step over the line to do something illegal, where the other one has
the same talent but is saying I have no problems stepping over the line and
doing something illegal. They're using the same talents that, that do the same
thing; either to sell a car, or sell you the cell phone, and someone else to
sell some scams, it's the same thing.

[00:31:18] HOST:
Another week we'll hear about this, but AARP's Fraud Watch Network refers to
being under the ether. Is that a term that you've heard? But it's basically is
that, that, that situation where you're completely just you don't know what's
going on.

[00:31:30] Frank
Abagnale: Well and it sounds so good and they can make it so, especially for an elderly person, they can make it so confusing, and to where you really don't understand it and so you just want to do the right thing, and you say, you know what, just tell me what, what I need to do so I can settle this and all that's part of that. The scam.

[00:31:47] HOST:
Alright, so once again our, our advice and Frank's advice always is to stop and
verify, and also just be aware you're not going to get arrested for missing
jury duty anywhere, that I'm aware of.

[00:31:57] Frank Abagnale: That's not going to happen.


[00:32:01] HOST: We are once again going to check in with the Fraud Watch Network Team. Jen Beam manages the Fraud Watch Network Facebook page. And the fraud this week we're talking about with Jen, is puppy scams, right Jen?

[00:32:12] Jen Beam:
That's true.

[00:32:13] HOST: Is
this a real...

[00:32:14] Jen Beam: Yeah.

[00:32:14] HOST: I don't even like to say those words together. So what are people, how are people getting scammed with puppies?

[00:32:20] Jen Beam:
Oh it's terrible. So this is a scam that has, you know sort of started on
Craig's List, but we're now seeing it on social media, sort of on Facebook, and
basically what happens is the post will say something like, you know a
reputable breeder and they're advertising you know it's for sale. It's adoptable
for free to a loving home. And there's just no animal, so they're just using
you know cute photos and pictures, descriptions from other websites and there's always a backstory of course. The scammers are very good at this, so it's something like a soldier is about to be deployed. A grandmother's being
hospitalized, and her dog just gave birth to a littler, so you jump in, you
make contact, usually it's by email. You might even get vaccine records, a
guarantee of health, you know glowing reviews, so it's really, they know what
they're doing. They really make it look very legitimate. But, of course, you've
got to pay; upfront payments, you know adoption fees, shipping fees, veterinary care, you name it. Often you have to do that by a wire transfer or perhaps a prepaid debit card, a scammers favorite tool. And then it all starts, so then you've got delays, you've got surprise additional fees. And you just never get the dog.

[00:33:45] HOST:
Alright, Jen, thanks again, we always appreciate your help and your expertise.

[00:33:49] Jen Beam:
Thank you so much, Will.

[00:33:50] HOST: And
Jen Beam is with the Fraud Watch Network, you can learn more about the Fraud Watch Network at Watch Network.


[00:34:01] HOST:
Alright, everyone. Thanks again for listening and thanks to my cohost, AARP's
Fraud Watch Network Ambassador, Frank Abagnale for all the information and good advice.

[00:34:09] Frank
Abagnale: It was great being with you.

[00:33:32] HOST: And
great stories too, as always.

[00:34:11] Frank
Abagnale: Thanks.

[00:34:13] HOST: For
more information and resources on how to protect yourself from becoming a
victim of a scam, visit AARP's Fraud Watch Network website, Alright, many thanks to our producers, Julie Getzand Brook Ellis. Our audio engineer, Julio Gonzales, and of course, my cohost, Frank Abagnale. Be sure to subscribe, download, rate, and of course like our podcast on Apple Podcast or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.


Next Episode

Episode 3: Alex Goldman's Call Center Scam

Find out what happens when Alex gets a call from someone claiming to be from Apple, Alex quickly realizes the call is a scam.

How to Listen and Subscribe to The Perfect Scam

iPhone or iPad

  1. Open the Podcasts app, search for the show title and select it from the list of results.
  2. Once on the show page, click the "Subscribe" button to have new episodes sent to your phone or tablet for free.
  3. Click the name of an episode from the list below to listen.

Android Phone or Tablet

  1. Open the Google Play Music app, search for the show title and select it from the list of results.
  2. Once on the show page, click the "Subscribe" button to have new episodes sent to your phone or tablet for free.
  3. Click the name of an episode from the list below to listen.

Smart Speakers (Amazon Echo or Google Home)

  1. To play podcasts on your Amazon Echo smart speaker, ask the following: "Alexa, ask TuneIn to play The Perfect Scam podcast" OR "Alexa, play The Perfect Scam podcast on TuneIn"
  2. To play podcasts on your Google Home smart speaker, ask the following: "Hey Google, Play The Perfect Scam podcast"

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?

spinner image cartoon of a woman holding a megaphone

Have you seen this scam?

  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.