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Con artists target elderly couple

A Snyder woman is warning people about con artists who tried to convince her elderly mother and stepfather that their grandson needed $2,700 to get out of a Mexican jail.

The scam, conducted by telephone, played on the fact that the couple had two grandsons who were studying abroad.

Janet Bohn said her stepfather is a soft touch who, over the course of at least four phone calls, agreed to send the money before Bohn could intervene.

"They are so trusting; they are so vulnerable," Bohn said of her 84-year-old stepfather and 93-year-old mother, who live in Lancaster. She asked that they not be identified.

As Bohn later learned, the calls began Dec. 14. The next morning, the couple received a call from someone claiming to be one of Bohn's sons, Matthew Kallen, who said he had been arrested for drinking and driving in Mexico.

Her stepfather, who has had some health issues, later said the man "sounded just like Matt," Bohn said.

The couple was told to wire $2,700 via Western Union to someone in San Lucas, Mexico, and they were warned not to say anything to anyone else.

Bohn said she doesn't know whether the scammers knew her son's name, or the fact that he had spent the semester studying abroad in Sicily, or if they randomly called her mother and stepfather and drew the information out of the couple. Her other son was studying in Athens, Greece.

Kallen got back into town Dec. 15 and called his grandmother and her husband that day.

The next day, last Friday, Bohn and Kallen went over to the couple's Lancaster home.

When they arrived, Bohn's stepfather was on the phone, and Bohn became curious as she heard half of the conversation.

He finally hung up the phone, saw Kallen and said, "Wow, you got here so quick."

When Bohn asked what that meant, her stepfather recounted the story of the jail stay.

The phone soon rang again. Bohn told her stepfather to answer it and talk to the con artist while she listened in.

After a few minutes, Bohn became so angry at the scammer that she broke into the conversation to say she had reported him to the police and officers were tracing the call.

The con artist hung up and hasn't called back again.

The AARP recommends being suspicious of any request to wire money and telling anyone who calls you claiming to be a grandchild that you will call the person back on the phone number you already have for that grandchild.