NEW BRAUNFELS — A retired dentist in New Braunfels received a harrowing call Monday morning from a person pretending to be his granddaughter in loads of trouble after a car crash in Las Vegas.
The grandfather later learned he was only being targeted by a scam, and his granddaughter was safe at a Texas college, as she should have been. Local police said the scam is not new, and residents should take precautions when receiving such calls.
Dr. John Landry said his wife answered the phone about 10 a.m. and heard a frantic female voice on the other end claiming to be the couple’s granddaughter. The caller said she had flown to Las Vegas with friends, had too much to drink and crashed a motor vehicle into a pedestrian, breaking the victim’s femur, Landry said.
He said the caller begged the retirees to avoid calling her parents.
“She was wailing and saying, ‘Please don’t call my parents,’” Landry said. “She was carrying on.”
The female said a police officer would call back and give the concerned grandparents instructions about what to do next. Landry said moments later a man called posing as a police officer named Eli Thompson.
He told the Landrys to send through Western Union $6,000 cash to Robert Trumaine Johnson, purportedly a court official in Las Vegas, Landry said.
He said the phony police officer told them to go to the local HEB store and make the transaction, reassuring the couple that they would get the money back later and it was just to make sure their granddaughter reported for trial.
The scam artists gave Landry a telephone number to call once the money was sent. Landry called the number — (888) 204-3830 — and got an outgoing message, spoken in English and then in French, saying the number was temporarily unavailable.
A bit leery but still hoping to help their granddaughter out of bind without notifying her mother — Landry’s daughter — about the trouble, Landry said he went to his credit union to withdraw the money.
While there, he told credit union personnel about the strange call and they warned him it was a scam and convinced him to call police, which Landry said he eventually did.
He said he called his granddaughter, a student at Texas Tech, and she said she had just left class and was doing fine in Texas, Landry said. He said he then called his daughter and told her the story.
Landry said his daughter was undaunted. She said her daughter is responsible and would never do the things the caller alleged, Landry said.
“I’ve heard of that scam before,” said Capt. John McDonald of New Braunfels Police Department. “I have seen it here in the past but not recently.”
He said people should be suspicious when receiving similar calls. Landry did the right thing in calling his family members, McDonald said.
He said anyone faced with similar circumstances immediately should confirm the claims.
“They should verify all the information with known family members,” McDonald said. “There are a lot of people out there participating in fraudulent activities.”