According to the movies, most con artists aren't such bad people. Sure, they're pretending to be another person or lying to your face in order to make some extra money, but so what? They're also extremely charming, witty, and sometimes look like Leonardo DiCaprio. If they want to trick people out of some money, we as an audience are usually okay with it.
However, in real life, cons aren't two hours of entertainment consisting of dazzling performances by glamorous stars. For instance, it's highly unlikely that Jennifer Lawrence has ever gone out of her way to try to trick people out of their money. (Although some people who saw Mother may beg to differ.)
In a real scam, real people end up losing real money. For instance, there's the now-famous Nigerian prince email scam. By now, almost everyone is familiar with it, but for years it effectively tricked people out of large sums of cash.
In Tennessee, one man nearly fell for a new con that would have cost him almost $10,000. Greg Gerth is an 80-year-old grandfather who wants to make sure this scam doesn't happen to anyone else. Here is his story.
Gerth said he got a phone call from a number starting with "011." Those digits are typically used to dial a number out of the country, but is also a prefix sometimes used by scammers. If you see these digits on a number calling you, be careful.
Gerth said that the person on the phone said it was is grandson. "He said my face is messed up, my nose is broke," Gerth explained. "He said that's why he sounded different, and he said he was in jail for a DUI."
To get rid of his grandson's legal trouble, Gerth just had to do one simple thing. And that's transfer over a measly little $9,750. "I wanted to help my grandson," Gerth said, so he took the next steps.
So Gerth got on the phone with Wells Fargo to send over the money. But while Gerth didn't think twice about making the transfer, the bank teller did. So before going through with it, the teller asked him a few questions.
"(The teller) was asking me all these questions," Gerth said. "Did I know the person that I was depositing to, and were they going to re-emburse me for this." Gerth decided it was worth giving the matter some thought.
So Gerth took some time and made some more phone calls. From there, he found out his grandson had not gotten into an accident and was perfectly fine. Thanks to the bank teller stepping in, Gerth stopped himself from throwing away almost $10,000.
Gerth isn't the only person who has been tricked (at least temporarily) by this scam. It even has a name, the grandfather scam. Randy Hutchinson of the Better Business Bureau said that some victims of the scam forked over tens of thousands of dollars.
Hutchinson said there are a few possible warning signs if you get a phone call such as this one. "If you're asked to pay with gift cards or by wiring money then just calm down and try to keep the person on the phone," he said. In other words, if something seems a bit suspicious, there's a good chance your instincts are correct.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets a helpful bank teller to talk them out of losing their money. So the next time you're watching a movie about an impostor or con artist, be glad that it's only happening to the people on the screen. When it's not happening to you, you can just munch on some popcorn and enjoy.