Scammers try to swindle savvy grandma out of $20K. But she doesn’t fall for it.

Updated: Dec 23, 2020


By SARA VANDEN BERGE

Don’t underestimate grandma.


That’s the lesson one local lady taught a couple of would-be scammers last week when they tried to swindle her out of thousands of dollars by playing on her emotions.


The intended victim, Stephenville resident Edna Tate, is a retired teacher and superintendent who outsmarted the scammers by keeping her cool even after she was told that her grandson needed help.


Today, she gets to add “super sleuth” to her already impressive resume.


I spoke with Mrs. Tate by telephone and she told me about the jarring experience and how she staved off the scam.

It all began last Friday when her phone rang shortly after 10 a.m.


“(The connection) wasn’t very clear, but I kept hearing someone say, ‘This is your oldest grandson and I need your help Memaw,’” Mrs. Tate told Beneath the Surface News.


Even though he isn’t the oldest of her nine grandchildren, Mrs. Tate assumed it was her grandson Taylor on the other end of the phone because he calls her “Memaw.”


The caller went on to say that he was in jail with a broken nose and busted lip after getting into an accident in Dallas. He said he had a couple of drinks and struck a vehicle driven by a pregnant woman.


“I said, ‘What are you doing in Dallas?” because he is only 16 and lives in Boerne,” she said. “He told me he was there celebrating a friend’s birthday.”


Then “Taylor” gave his grandmother the name and phone number of his court-appointed attorney and asked her to call.


“My heart is breaking and I am in total shock,” Mrs. Tate said.


When she reached the attorney, a woman by the name of “Sarah Golden,” Mrs. Tate was told she needed to get her hands on $20,000 to bond her grandson out of jail.

She was also asked to keep the situation “quiet” until “Taylor” could break the news to his parents himself.


The attorney then instructed Mrs. Tate to go to her bank and make a cash withdrawal and someone from her office would meet her there to collect it.


“She told me I needed to do it right away,” Mrs. Tate said.


By now, the former school teacher was beginning to get suspicious (years inside a classroom will do that to you) and that’s when she took matters into her own hands.


She enlisted a little help from friends and dabbled in some online sleuthing that unveiled a couple of interesting facts: There is no Dallas attorney by the name of Sarah Golden nor was her grandson listed in the jail log.


“I finally called my son and asked him where Taylor was,” Mrs. Tate said. “And he told me that he was at school in Boerne.”


That’s when it dawned on her: She had almost been scammed.


The next phone call Mrs. Tate made was to the Stephenville Police Department.


Lt. James Gresham said scammers often target the elderly by using a number of variations of this ruse.


But this one was different because the scammers used personal information like the fact that her grandson calls her “Memaw” to make the situation appear more believable.


“This wasn’t a cold call scam; it was very specific and targeted,” Gresham said. “We think the scammers used social media to get the information.”


He praised Mrs. Tate for remaining cool under pressure and thinking things through before reacting.


“It was the scam that wasn’t because she slowed down and took some verification steps that prevented her from getting scammed,” Gresham said. “It’s the kind of thing we hope everyone does in this kind of situation.”


Meanwhile, the scammers appear to have finally given up on Mrs. Tate after she refused to take any more of their calls.


She said she is sharing her story with the hope of helping others avoid getting scammed this holiday season.


She is also reminding her husband that her quick thinking likely saved them thousands of dollars.


“We went shopping at the Dollar Store and I told him I saved us $20,000, so I figured I could buy anything I want,” she said with a laugh.