Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

April 8, 2014
Scammer claims to be grandson and tries to con $7K from couple

Police are warning Tooele County residents to be wary of fraudulent calls demanding money.

Several different scams have been reported by county residents, schemes that go way beyond pleas from a Nigerian prince to stash his fortune in a kind person’s bank account.

Sgt. Ron Johnson of the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office, said the calls, which include demands from people purporting to be representatives of Rocky Mountain Power and the Internal Revenue Service, have been being reported all year but have increased lately.

“They’ve been trickling in since January, but it seems like this month we’ve gotten a lot more,” Johnson said.

Rex and Estelle Sutton of Stansbury Park got one such call.

“It was terrible,” Estelle said.

She said a man on the other end of the call was crying and identified himself as her oldest grandson.

“And I said, ‘John’? And he said, ‘Yes, it’s John.’ The police officer said when I gave him that name, it let him in a little bit,” she said. “He didn’t sound like my grandson. He did not sound like him, but when they’re crying like that, you don’t really know for sure.”

The Suttons said the man told them he had been driving with some friends in Las Vegas and their car was pulled over by a police officer, who discovered marijuana in the trunk of the car. The driver and passengers of the car, including their grandson, were then arrested, they were told, and their grandson was savagely beaten and sexually assaulted in jail.

The only way for him to get out, they were told by someone who said he was a police sergeant, was for them to pay $7,000 in bail.

“I told [the sergeant] we didn’t have that kind of money on hand, and he said, ‘Well, how much could you get? Could you get $4,000?’ And I said no, and he said, ‘Your grandson’s in a really bad way. You wouldn’t do that for your grandson?’” Estelle said.

The Suttons hung up on the tearful call and called their daughter — their grandson’s mother — and told her about it. She said her son could not have been locked up in a Las Vegas jail because she had just watched the Real Salt Lake game with him that night, and she had heard about similar calls turning out to be scams.

Johnson said that specific type of scam has not been reported often locally, but has been more widespread outside of the county. More common in local communities are the IRS scam, where someone claims to be from the IRS, calls and says a person will be arrested for not paying taxes unless they immediately wire money to an account.

According to the IRS, people who are called and threatened in this way, and have no reason to believe they owe any taxes, should report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484. More information on various IRS scams, including receiving emails asking for personal information, can be found on the agency’s website, irs.gov.

Other local scams have included someone from Rocky Mountain Power threatening a local business with shutting off their power for a supposedly overdue bill; a website promising a lot of pay for little work, and then trying to drain the bank account listed on the worker’s direct deposit information; and sweepstakes to easily win dream vacations, Johnson said. If there is doubt about whether something is legitimate or a scam, Johnson said the answer can usually be found pretty easily.

“Google it,” he said. “It usually brings up thousands of hits about the scam and where it’s from.”

Johnson cautioned against giving out personal information for phone and online scams, and to never wire money to an unknown account or through a moneygram for these types of demands. If someone is the recipient of a call or email scam, they should report it to police — though, Johnson said, in some cases there is little police can do about it.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” he said. “Let us know what’s going on. We’ll take a report and try to get a hold of the right agencies about it.” 

Lisa Christensen

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Lisa covers primarily crime and courts, military affairs, Stansbury Park government and transportation issues. She is a graduate of Utah State University, where she double-majored in journalism and music, and Grantsville High School.

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