4 ways to avoid a costly phone scam

A single phone call to a Dacula couple started a scam that cost them thousands of dollars.

First let's be clear: You'll hear about Sam's Club in this story, but know that the giant retailer is not at fault here, but rather scammers are using their good name to essentially pick the pockets of strangers.

This is how it happened. It started with a phone call.

"I thought it was my daughter," said 81-year-old George Graham.  

Mr. Graham says now that the caller claiming to be his daughter didn't really sound like her, but she called to say she was in jail. So, this Jamaican-born father stopped thinking clearly very quickly and started acting.  

"I always be aware. Be alert. But they convinced me my children was in trouble and I'm going to help my children."

This July 14th Gwinnett County police report shows that the caller said his "daughter in New Jersey" had been in a car accident. Soon she turned the phone over to "an attorney" who quickly told him he could "settle" the case right there on the phone - for a fee.

"He said, 'I would like you to get some gift card(s) so that we can settle this out of court.'"

Sam's Club gift cards. According to the police report, the caller wanted six of them worth $700 a piece.  Listen what the caller said to convince him to cough up $4,200.

"'If we don't settle this and it goes to the court, we will charge dangerous, reckless driving and her license could be suspended for a year,'" Mr. Graham remembers.  

So this father did it. But it wasn't over yet. Another call came in.  It seems the possible charges in his daughter's future were a little more complicated. The caller said there was a second case against her pending.

"'Did your daughter (tell) you that one of the passengers in the car was pregnant?' I said, no," he said.

And that "this case too would be best settled out of court" for - you guessed it - more gift cards. Eight cards at $500 a piece. That's another $4,000. And he did it.

One thing the caller did say that was true: Don't pay with traceable credit cards but instead gift cards.

"He said you don't want to use your card. It can be traced."

Because, he's right, they're not traceable.

So, as Mr. Graham puts it, "That money is gone. It's gone."

4 Ways to Avoid This Scam
1. Never, ever, ever pay with a gift card.
2. Don't settle a legal case over the phone. Go to court.
3. Avoid a rushed decision. Slow down. Think it through.
4. Run issues like this by a friend or relative. Get a second opinion.