With the November elections just weeks away, a growing number of
Americans are being tricked by a sinister con game that's morphing into a
bizarre new threat. The swindle known as "Gram Scam" is going political.
Until recently, this deception was aimed at senior citizens. In a
typical scenario, the victim gets a frantic message from someone posing as a
favorite grandchild. The caller claims he or she has been arrested in a
foreign country, needs money immediately to pay a lawyer, and the caller
also implores "Grandpa" not to tell anyone else about the situation because
it's so embarrassing.
Now, however, the scheme is exploding with epidemic velocity. According
to numerous police departments, the polarized political climate gripping the
US has created a perfect storm of expanded opportunity for Gram Scammers.
"New cases are being reported daily," said one FBI fraud specialist,
"and frankly we're not surprised. Grifters manipulate emotional responses
by using code words and crisis signals, causing the victim to hit a mental
flash point that overwhelms logic and common sense. Old folks have a soft
spot for their grand kids. Now the perps have discovered flash points for
voters who are passionate about issues and candidates."
One of those voters is a woman named Lois, a nurse in Los Angeles who
doesn't want her last name revealed. "I worked as a block captain for the
Obama team," she explains, "and that's probably how the creeps got my name,
by hacking into some campaign database.
"They definitely knew how to push my buttons," Lois admits. "I mean, a
phone call from the first lady -- I was stunned. She said my name, she knew
where I lived, it was amazing!"
More amazement quickly followed when 'Michelle Obama' explained that she
was being detained on trumped up charges in the Dominican Republic.
"She said she was involved in a top secret diplomatic operation," Lois
recalls, "and I had to promise to keep everything quiet or it would be ruin
her husband, so she was was putting their trust, and hope, in me. Of
course I agreed."
What happened next was a classic combination of drama and deceit. Lois
was spellbound as 'Michelle' told how she'd been pulled over by a traffic
cop, forced to blow into a breath analyzer, and then charged with DUI.
"She told me it was false reading," Lois says, "probably caused by cough
medicine she'd been taking for a scratchy throat. Then she said to wire
$4500 dollars right away, to an attorney, and he would pay the fine and fix
everything. And she would phone back to let me know the payment got
through. I asked why she didn't call the embassy, and she said nobody in
the state department knew she was there, and she was using a fake name, and
time was running out."
Lois, thoroughly ensnared, quickly wired the money. One hour later the
phone rang again, with a new voice on the other end.
"This man said he was Michelle's lawyer," Lois continues, "and told me
the messenger bringing the cash to the police station had been hit by a bus
and the money disappeared, so I needed to send another $4500 dollars or they
would put Michelle into solitary confinement."
In a state of near-panic, Lois told the man to hold on and called a
friend on her cell phone. "I didn't have enough money in the bank for
another payment," she says, "but I knew one of my co-workers from the
campaign could help. I just blurted the story out the moment she answered,
and the first thing she said was, 'You got to be kidding! I sent Michelle
Obama $6000 two days ago!' It turned out her fake Michelle claimed to be in
a hospital with flesh-eating bacteria, and they needed to buy special
antibiotics or Barack would have to fly down there in Air Force One and he'd
never get re-elected!"
Lois has no plans to try and recover her money. In fact, she professes
to feel mostly relief that the entire episode was fabricated. "I'm just
glad to know Michelle isn't being traumatized in some grimy jail cell," she says. "That's much more important to me than my bank balance."
In Miami, a car wash operator and Tea Party activist named Dale was
targeted by scammers trolling the opposite end of the political spectrum.
"The call happened right while I was recording the Messiah on CNN,
blathering his socialist agenda to a bunch of union goons," Dale recalls.
"So I answer the phone and this guy says, 'I'm Todd Palin and we're about to
nail Obama's ass to the wall--do you want to help save America?' Man, I
about jumped though the roof!"
The help Dale needed to provide was, of course, monetary and covert.
'Todd' explained that his wife had secretly traveled to Nairobi and was, at that
very moment, in possession of Barack Obama's Kenyan birth certificate. Even
more enticing was his assertion that Obama was also in Kenya, and 'Sarah'
had used her cell phone to take pictures of him worshipping at a local
mosque wearing a turban and tribal robes.
"Hey, I wasn't born yesterday," Dale adds. "I asked the guy how the
Messiah could be in Kenya when CNN was showing him live at this union rally,
and he said it was simple -- the person on my TV screen was a double. He said
Obama uses them all the time when he sneaks back to his homeland."
By sheer luck, Dale avoided being stung. "This phony Todd person told
me they needed $3300 dollars to bribe the guards at the border crossing, and
I was supposed to get a money order, and a messenger would pick it up and
take it to an overseas banking office somewhere downtown.
"And right then," Dale says, "I happen to glance down to the floor
beside my chair. See, I had just hooked up the phone to one of those voice
stress monitors. My ex-wife calls all the time and I wanted to see if she's
jerkin' me around when she calls and says her purse got snatched, or the car
got robbed, and she's gonna get evicted if she doesn't pay the rent. All
the time she hassles me for extra dough.
"Anyway, I look down, and the dang voice stress gizmo is going bonkers!
Thank goodness for modern technology -- I can't tell you how great it felt to
just give that SOB imposter an earful of my mind and hang up."
Dale is now in the process of warning his friends to be on the alert
every time their phones ring. "I'm not pulling any punches," he says. "I'm
telling 'em these scammers are real pros and they've done their homework.
Like the fact that Obama often uses a double -- I was impressed because that
isn't common knowledge and the lame-stream press never reports it.
"It's actually kind of scary," he admits, "to realize that a bunch of
rotten, low-life, scumbags are almost as smart as we are!"