WESTERVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — An elderly Westerville woman walked into PostNet to send a package last month, and walked out with a new perspective.
The owner of the shipping service company, Kinnari Patel, saved the woman from sending $12,500 in cash to a scammer in California.
“She was a little nervous, and frustrated. I asked her ‘What are you shipping?’ and she wouldn’t tell me,” Patel said. That prompted her to take action.
The scam started earlier that week on a Sunday evening when the 82-year-old woman received a phone call from an unknown number. The man on the other end of the telephone told her he was Chief Chandler from Westerville Police. The scammer told the woman she was under investigation and her bank accounts were about to be frozen.
“This man pretending to be Homeland Security or Westerville PD, claiming she was in a lot of trouble and her bank account was hacked or whatever,” the woman’s granddaughter Kieley Stroupe said. “She needed to send him all of her money so that way he could keep it safe for her. He befriends her. He tricks her to believe that he’s there to help her.”
The scammer continued to call the elderly grandmother day after day. He even helped her to procure the cash from her bank by walking her through the process and giving her lies to tell the bank.
“She lies to her family, my father included,” Stroupe said. “She lies to her bank so she could withdraw all this money. I’m terrified for my grandmother. Because I know she’s in her 80’s. She’s already confused by technology. He’s threatening her that if she tells anybody he’s going to come after her and things are going to be worse.”
When the elderly woman got to the bank, she was on the phone with the scammer and told the teller the lie she was fed.
“While she was on the phone, the scammer was telling her how to explain why she needs $12,500 in cash, and how to get it out without being flagged,” Stroupe said. “Lied to the bank and said she was having her roof re-done and she got a big discount if she used cash.”
The cash was in hand: $12,500 in $100 bills. The scammer continued to check in after the cash was out of the bank and instructed the woman on how to prepare it for shipping.
“She would stack the money in between each page of the magazine. And then she wrapped it in duct tape and put it in a box to mail,” Stroupe said.
Then, on a Thursday afternoon, the elderly woman walked into PostNet in Westerville next to Kroger off Maxtown Road. Her plan was simple: send this box of money to a man in California to keep her family and savings safe. She told nobody about her plan, not even her son when he came to check on her.
Thankfully, there was a watchful eye at PostNet. Kinnari Patel opened the shop two years ago. She said she has seen a few scams but nothing as elaborate as this one.
She said the woman didn’t really seem like she knew what she was doing. “You know how when you are nervous or scared but you are trying to hide something, and you can tell somebody is trying to lie or hide something from you,” Patel said.
“It was a brown box. I would say about like a small/medium box. And she had wrapped duct tape all over it and that’s very unusual. Something is going on. Something is not right. I need to jump in, and that’s what I did,” Patel added.
Patel noticed the woman on the phone with someone who seemed to be yelling at her. She took the phone and asked who it was. When the scammer on the other end told her it was the Chief of Police, Patel knew better.
“I talked to scammer, I didn’t give her her phone she wanted. I was like, ‘No, you’re not talking to a scammer,'” Patel told the woman in her shop.
“Fortunately that woman saved my grandmother from mailing $12,500 to a scam artist,” Stroupe said.
After Patel intercepted the phone, the woman’s son called. Patel initially got stern with him thinking he was the scammer, something they both laugh about now. Patel said she would hold on to his mother’s phone until he got there. He took his mother to the Westerville Police Department to finally convince her that the Chief was not asking her to send $12,500.
“Westerville Police made it a point to say that they will never call if they need anything. Or they will never ask you for money. To prey on vulnerable individuals is very low,” said Stroupe.
The scammer didn’t give up, however. “He continued to call her. He’d call her 5-6 times in a row if she wasn’t answering. To the point where she had to get a new phone number, a new phone, and a new bank account. He was ruthless,” Stroupe explained.
That scammer did not win this one, thanks to an astute and observant PostNet owner who cares about her customers. “We could not be more grateful that this woman, for a complete stranger saved her,” said Stroupe.
Patel, however, doesn’t want all the praise. She just wants more people to act with integrity and kindness for others, even if it means arguing with a confused elderly woman and refusing to send a package.
“You might lose a sale, but it’s not always about sale. Please take care of your parents. They need you,” added Patel.