Quincy, Massachusetts: Taxi driver Richard Spencer said he quickly sensed something was wrong when an 87-year-old woman he was driving Wednesday afternoon told him she was headed to Walmart to purchase thousands of dollars in gift cards. Instead of taking her to the store, he drove her to the Quincy police station instead.
Spencer, who drives for Yellow Cab of Quincy, said he has seen scammers prey on seniors more than once during the course of his 25-year career and it took him only a few minutes into his conversation with the woman to realize she was being targeted.
The woman told Spencer she had already purchased $4,000 in gift cards at the Willard Street Home Depot earlier in the day after her grandson had called her and said he needed the money on the gift cards in order to stay out of jail.
“I said to her, I think your being scammed and I’m going to try to save you some money,” Spencer said.
Quincy police quickly determined it wasn’t really the woman’s grandson who had called her. The woman, they said, was the latest victim of what law enforcement officials call the “grandparent scam,” a common con in which thieves target an elderly person and pose as a family member in desperate need of money, giving their victim detailed instructions on how to buy and transfer the gift cards.
“This, ladies and gentlemen, is a text book,” Quincy police said in a statement. “While the victim in this scam may be out $4,000, which is a substantial amount of money, it could have been much, much worse.”
Police thanked Spencer for caring enough to help the woman.
“I have an 87-year-old mother and I would hate if someone didn’t look out for her like this,” Spencer said in an interview on Thursday. “These are senior citizens — your mothers and your fathers, your grandmothers, your grandfathers. I think it’s one of the scummiest things that you can do.”
Spencer said he’s surprised at all the attention his good deed has earned.
“I was just paying attention and looked out for her, that’s all,” he said.
Quincy police asked cashiers at stores that sell gift cards to be vigilant and ask whether it makes sense for older customers to be making such large gift card purchases.
“Sure, there may be a legitimate reason, but if you take the time and ask the questions, you just might prevent someone from falling victim,” Quincy police said.