It’s a sad fact that the elderly are prime targets for scammers. One of the scams seniors fall for most is the fake arrest of a grandchild. Here’s how one tough granny fought back.
Scammers have a bottomless bag of tricks, including impersonation, taking advantage of emotions and creating a sense of urgency. What happens when a scammer combines all three dirty tricks? Three unfortunate women found out. Here’s the story.
United by loss
Losing a loved one is never easy, and some choose to keep the departed’s ashes to remain close. Some decide to take things further and turn the cremation ashes into works of art.
Three women told USA Today about a scam they fell for that truly hit them where it hurt. Their experiences differed slightly, but the end game for the scammer was the same.
Kary Ide of Maryville, Tennessee, found an artist on TikTok who said he could mix cremation ashes into a painting for free. Kary got in contact with the artist, who called himself Chad. She sent her mother’s ashes to an address in Woodstock, Georgia and discussed the details of the painting with Chad.
A week passed, and Kary contacted Chad, who said he had a contract in Cambodia. Later on, she received an email claiming to be from Cambodia’s customs department. They said they had a package containing a portrait and ashes that needed to be “cleared.”
Kary would have to cough up $3,576 to regain her mother’s ashes. She refused to pay, and the scammer kept bothering her for the money via email.
Jocelyn Cronin of Petaluma, California, shipped her husband’s ashes to the same address after finding Chad on TikTok. In this case, a woman contacted her, saying she represented Chad.
Jocelyn then received the same email from Cambodia customs, demanding $3,576 to claim her husband’s ashes. Chad contacted her via text when she didn’t pay, offering to pay for part of the total. He even told her she could pay him in installments.
Chad soon lost patience and sent Jocelyn pictures of the ashes in a bag. He even threatened to throw them away and record the evil act for her to see.
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Wendy Bailey of Albertville, Alabama, sent her grandparents’ ashes to the same Woodstock address. In this case, Chad asked for an online shoutout in exchange for the art.
A few days later, Chad messaged Wendy on WhatsApp, asking for $200 for art supplies. Bailey said she didn’t have the money and asked Chad to return the ashes. The artist replied that he sent the ashes to Cambodia and needed $1,000 to get them back. Chad said he’d throw the ashes away if he weren’t paid.
That’s when Bailey called the Woodstock Police Department.
The plot thickens
Believe it or not, there were three other victims that weren’t directly scammed at all:
- That Woodstock, Georgia address belonged to a man named James Turner, who wondered why ashes were showing up on his doorstep.
- Federico Portalupi is a legitimate artist who creates these types of memorial pages. The scammers created fake profiles on TikTok, ripping off his videos to attract victims.
- Chad demanded money through CashApp, and the account information he sent belonged to a woman in Alabama.
Only one victim got the ashes back. The rest are likely lost forever.
What you can do about it
You can’t fault these women for being tricked while in an emotional state, but you must always exercise vigilance and caution, especially when it comes to any type of transaction.
Here are some guidelines to stay safe:
- Artists don’t generally give anything away for free. In fact, most people don’t do this at all. The word “free” should always be a red flag.
- Warn your loved ones about scams. If possible, talk to the person you care for about different types of scams that can happen over the phone.
- Never give out personal information over the phone or email if you don’t know or trust the caller or sender.
- If someone pressures you to send money quickly, hang up. Speak to a relative or friend about the situation to get perspective.
- Never send payment in any form to someone on the phone who you don’t know.
Losing money is one thing, but you’ll lose something irreplaceable in this case. Please keep your loved ones’ ashes somewhere safe.
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