The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department today alerted residents about a telephone scam that cost at least one senior citizen thousands of dollars.
According to police, an 86-year-old woman was recently contacted by a male caller who identified himself as a St. Louis public defender. The caller told the victim that one of her relatives had been arrested and was currently in jail. The victim was convinced the call was legitimate -- not only because the caller sounded professional, but also because the caller gave the correct name of the victim's relative.
The woman was told to wait for a telephone call from that relative for further instruction. Later, she received a second call from someone claiming to be the victim's relative. The caller said he needed $4,400 in order to be released from jail and that the money should be sent via wire transfer. Believing the caller was indeed her relative, the victim complied.
She later learned her relative had not been arrested and that she had been scammed. The victim's money, which was all the savings she had, has not been recovered and no suspect has been identified.
The police department is aware of at least one other instance where a caller attempted the same scam. The only difference is that, in that case, the victim recognized it was a scam before sending any money.
Police say that requesting bail money via wire transfer is not a practice of the court system and that public defenders never ask a client or client's family to pay them money directly.