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Rip-Off Alert | Scammers targeting grandparents, claiming family members are in trouble

A new scam is feeding into your worst nightmares with a frantic phone call that says a loved one is in trouble and needs money. (KSNV file)

A new scam is feeding into your worst nightmares with a frantic phone call that says a loved one is in trouble and needs money.

Here's how the "grandparent scam" works: a desperate call sounds believable, the victim falls for it, then pays up in a big way.

In one case, a scammer walked off with more than $2,000.

A random phone call in the mid-afternoon was made to an 83-year-old woman. Denise Toomey ended up taking the phone from her elderly mother-in-law.

"So I ran upstairs and this man was on the phone saying he was a public defender," said Toomey.

"The man who said he was a lawyer explained that her nephew was locked up," Toomey continued. "That he was arrested, he was in a fight, broken nose, stitches in his mouth."

Our Sinclair sister station learned the lawyer claimed to need cash, quickly, before the court closed for the day. He suggested a Walmart-to-Walmart money transfer.

"He said it was for bail money," said Toomey. "Long story short, I fell for it. I paid the money out."

The money -- $2,320 -- was transferred from a Walmart near her home in Massachusetts and picked up about 80 miles away at another Walmart.

"I called him back about an hour, 10 minutes, 'oh we need more money,'" said Toomey.

Detective Greg Miga is not only handling this fraud case but another wire transfer scam in town.

"The people making these phone calls are playing on a family member in need of help and that's what throws people off and makes people let their guard down," said Miga. "I would encourage everybody to ask lots of questions if they get one of these phone calls, don't just send money off, slow it down, really think about this."

"It's awful, I haven't really slept, I'm sick over it," said Toomey. "I just jumped on it and got scammed."

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