Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

You’ve won $2 million March 4, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:13 AM
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A FRIEND—I’ll call her Alice—phoned yesterday. Unfortunately at the moment I answered the telephone, I was inputting some photos into my computer and I had to set down the receiver and finish that task.

When I returned, I asked, “What’s up?”

“It’s important,” she answered, her voice wavering.

Then Alice proceeded to tell me about the phone call from a man announcing that she had won a new car and $2 million. Instantly, my radar kicked in.

Alice had been instructed to go to the embroidery department of a local big box retailer and pick up some receipts. When she told the caller she didn’t know where the embroidery department was located, he advised her to go to the pharmacy area. Later that day, she was supposed to expect a delivery truck at her house.

She wondered if this was a scam.

I didn’t even hesitate. First, I told Alice to call the police. She already had. Secondly, I told her not to follow the instructions and not to give money to anyone. I emphasized that, absolutely, undeniably, this was all bogus. She had not won anything.

But, I could also tell, for a few seconds during our conversation, that Alice might have been persuaded to believe that she really had won $2 million and a new car. I’m not clear on the details of how my friend would have claimed her “prize,” but she did mention something about $2,000. I assume that’s the fee she was supposed to pay for the $2 million and that shiny new auto. She seemed somewhat confused about the process. By the way, Alice is a reasonable and cautious woman.

Alice had the caller’s phone number; it popped up on her television screen. He had also given her a cell phone number.

I assured Alice that she had done the right thing by contacting the police and that she should call me again if she needed to talk. I knew she was upset and unsettled.

Later in the day, I checked back with my friend. Alice was doing OK, but shared that she had been really nervous during the phone conversation with the unknown caller. He was difficult to understand and may have had a southern accent, she said.

I speculated he more than likely had a foreign accent.

A week ago I saw a piece on ABC’s television show What Would You Do? about a Nigerian man trying to scam an elderly woman, I told Alice. ABC’s 20/20 news show reported earlier on such Nigerian-based scams.

When I hear news stories like this, I never really believe such an attempted scam could happen in a Midwestern community like Faribault and especially to a friend. Yesterday I was proven wrong.

HAVE YOU, or someone you know, ever been the target of an attempted scam? If so, I’d like to hear about your, or your acquaintance’s, experience.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling