Scam alert: Woman loses $6,000 after tall tale in Westwood

Just talked with a woman who reports a sad scam story similar to ones we’ve heard before: She says she was approached by two women at Westwood Village, outside the QFC store, who asked her for help. The web of what they needed/wanted her to do kept spinning – and now she is very sadly out $6,000, she says. The story had something to do with Africa, an impending airplane flight, and needing to show trust. She says that police can’t do much because she willingly gave them the $6,000, not realizing till afterward that she had been scammed, after an hour and a half of various stops and various people, including a visit to the Walgreens at 15th and Roxbury. The tale was reminiscent of this one, which also originated at Westwood Village, this time last year. Yes, we know YOU might not fall for this, but if you have particularly kindhearted friends/relatives, you might make sure they’re warned that this is out there. Sorry we don’t have descriptions on the suspects, but just the concept of being approached for a large sum of money should be enough to raise suspicion.

25 Replies to "Scam alert: Woman loses $6,000 after tall tale in Westwood"

  • Alki resident September 29, 2011 (6:58 pm)

    Shouldnt there be video cameras outside QFC that show the women perps?

  • Tony September 29, 2011 (7:12 pm)

    My goodness…I’m so sorry to hear about this. See these types of things from time to time.

  • velo_nut September 29, 2011 (7:36 pm)

    Really? C’mon people… wake up. There are very, very, very mean people out there.

  • Magpie September 29, 2011 (7:48 pm)

    Did anyone check the store for photos? This is such a shame. I saw this happen to an elderly lady for $9,000. She was told she was helping the FBI and not to tell anyone.

    She didn’t tell anyone till the following Monday when she came in to the Bank to see the manager who was going to give her her money back…

    Unfortunately, these women are long gone and are working another city as we speak..

    • WSB September 29, 2011 (8:26 pm)

      Magpie, the victim did tell me that surveillance cameras were being checked, Velo, the victim was incredibly embarrassed and chagrined at what she realized she had “allowed” to happen, ruefully saying she needed a T-shirt that read “SUCKER” on the front of it. But as embarrassed and heartsick as she was, she wanted to warn others, and called us. Usually our rule is that, when we get a phone call like that, we tell people they have to write it out and e-mail it to us, but this one seemed possibly urgent, as if the scammers were still out there, so I decided to write from the phone conversation – TR

  • Nick September 29, 2011 (9:14 pm)

    How does that even happen? $6,000 dollars? You gotta be kidding me. I don’t understand you you could possibly fork over that kind of $$ to someone you don’t even know. Mind-blowing.

  • A September 29, 2011 (10:36 pm)

    This story is embarrassing. Seriously? It needed to be printed so it didn’t happen to anyone else? Did this even actually happen and if so is the victim of sound mind? It just seems incredibly hard to believe considering the amount of effort this scam should have taken.

  • Here September 29, 2011 (10:50 pm)

    Unfortunately this happens too often.

  • G September 29, 2011 (10:55 pm)

    I don’t know the age of the woman who was scammed, but a lot of elderly are victims, sadly.

    Take a few minutes to remind elderly relatives and/or elderly friends who might be susceptible to this kind of thing to NEVER give money to a stranger.

  • GenHillOne September 30, 2011 (5:44 am)

    Yes, G, elderly and/or those who don’t use computers I think. Spoke to someone awhile back who had a family member taken by another popular one – “grandchild” calling from Caribbean vacation, arrested, needs money wired. The “lawyer” then also called back the day after to get more. Even Western Union questioned her and she was sure about it. As obvious as it seems to us, there are people who haven’t heard of these scams. It’s definitely a good idea to check in with others at risk.

  • shihtzu September 30, 2011 (6:10 am)

    Sad. I assume the victim is elderly. I could never understand how this could possibly happen until my grandfather started to get old. He lives by himself and is for the most part functional, but has problems with giving money (cash!) to every lame “charity” that asks. It’s sad and totally unlike him, but that’s what aging can do to the brain.

    And…no matter how many times we tell him not to, take away his checkbook, etc., he finds a way and forgets he’s not supposed to or forgets he’s even done it.

  • skeeter September 30, 2011 (8:24 am)

    This happened to my elderly Uncle in California. He gave away over $4,000 (that we know of) to a complete stranger with some sad (and almost certainly fake) story. This guy just kept coming back for more and more and more. And my Uncle got out the checkbook each time. Really sad.

  • kmweiner September 30, 2011 (8:24 am)

    Elderly does not equate with foolish.

    On the same day this happened my wallet was found at the post office and brought to my home.

    There are good people.

    • WSB September 30, 2011 (9:18 am)

      Re: “elderly” etc. – Again, I spoke with the victim. You certainly can’t tell someone’s age by their voice. But I have to say, she spoke clearly and coherently, and could have been anywhere from 40 to 90, honestly. She was extremely embarrassed and also talked about how once she got entangled in the whole experience, she kept looking for a way out, but she was hungry, tired, in a rush, just wanting to help, just thinking the next thing they brought up would be the end of it – The eye-opener for me was a few years back, when a relatively young acquaintance of mine had received the “Nigerian e-mail scam” and absolutely refused to believe it was a scam – she was actually in a back-and-forth communication with the sender. Those of us to whom she was telling the story were not just twisting her arm to tell her “stop it now!” we were all but breaking it. Believe me, if there weren’t people unfortunately falling for these scams, they would have ceased a long time ago. And that is why I will publish something like this if it comes to our attention from time to time (note that the link in the story is a similar incident one year ago) … if just one person warns someone who is not scam-savvy or Web-savvy or up on current events, it will be worth it … TR

  • Curiouser September 30, 2011 (9:13 am)

    GenHillOne mentions Western Union. *Never* send money by Western Union unless the recipient is someone you know personally and have talked with.
    I was trying to get some sporting event tickets on short notice via Craigslist. One purchase was paid using PayPal and worked out very well, getting tickets from a pro scout. The other ad’s contact was very suspicious and after several emails asked me to send the money via WU to an address in England. I finally looked up the IP Address and it was on a list of known scammers.

  • ChristopherD September 30, 2011 (9:32 am)

    Another scam I’ve seen recently is to get an email from someone you know saying they are stuck in England (typically) and got robbed- no money, passport, etc, etc, so please wire some cash so they can do their paperwork, eat, etc. Since it’s from a cracked email account, it’s quite believable at the start.

    A coworker had this happen and was halfway through the wire process when her frantic calls were finally returned- from the friend still in Seattle. Sadly, as we wise up, they get more creative.

  • sacatosh September 30, 2011 (10:22 am)

    I’m confused as to why the police won’t pursue this. She may have “willingly” given them the money, but only after being pressured. It’s a known con job. I see news stories on a regular basis about someone being arrested for conning folks out of their money.

    I don’t understand why they say they can’t do much.

  • Service Dog Academy September 30, 2011 (10:27 am)

    Just FYI, I have hypoglycemia and when I am low blood sugared, you could probably convince me to hand over large sums of cash with little question. Of course you could probably convince me im Pocahontas too and I would believe you. You dont have to be elderly to be duped. Thank God for my diabetic alert dog Liame who can now tell me before I get to the “being able to be convinced of almost anything” stage of blood sugar consciousness.

    Happy Tails To You!
    Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA, CCS, BGS
    Service Dog Academy, Seattle WA
    Owner/Head Trainer

  • Jim P. September 30, 2011 (1:40 pm)

    “I’m confused as to why the police won’t pursue this”

    She may have been conned but it might not have been criminal fraud, directly.

    If someone comes up and asks you for a few bucks and you give it to them, it’s not a crime (other than possible panhandling statutes.) The fact that you gave them six grand does not change the part that all they did was ask and you gave. This is called “freedom”.

    Basically, it’d be her word against theirs as to who said what and since by now, if they are smart, they are in at least another city if not another state, there’s really not much to be done. If they didn’t promise anything and just said things like “Don’t you have faith the Lord will return this sevenfold” and similar nonsense: “You’re doing us a favor, you’re helping a sister in Christ who is in need” etc. there’s not a lot anyone can do except hope she learned from this. (Religion is often used to defuse people’s suspicions, it works surprisingly well on beleivers.)

    People need to learn to be rude to strangers who want things from them. You are not obligated to stand and listen to some sob story just because they buttonholed you on the public roadway. Or if you do and they walk away six thousand richer to your detriment, shrug and keep going or have someone appointed to oversee your finances.

    I have to wonder where the money came from. Did she write them a check? Or did they all trot over to the bank and she got the cash there. I sure hope she isn’t carrying that much in her purse. ;)

    I am very impressed someone could smooth talk a total stranger out of six grand without even working up a sweat, those are real professionals in the art of grifting. It’s quite a beautiful art in its own ugly way.

    One possible bright note: If they claimed they’ll pay it back, she may be able to deduct it later as an uncollectible debt. Talk to a tax professional. (If you don’t have anything in writing, I’d not bother though.)

  • huh? September 30, 2011 (1:41 pm)

    Service Dog Academy should become a WSB sponsor if they want to advertise here. Stop your spamming, please!

  • furor scribendi September 30, 2011 (4:23 pm)

    Jim P, your splitting legal hairs does nothing to minimize the “crime” done here. If you are impressed by such activity you lack a moral center. There is nothing beautiful, artful, or a bright note in this sordid tale. The perps need to return the money, and if not then they need to be picked up, booked in, and charge/convicted for theft.

  • Service Dog Academy September 30, 2011 (5:51 pm)


    Im not advertising. The comment was aimed at the fact that the woman said she was “she was hungry, tired, in a rush,” All i was saying was dont think it couldnt happen to you because it can. A little sleep deprivation, a little tipsy from a night out drinking, a little low blood sugar… it can all affect cognitive function and your ability to protect yourself and your wallet. And if you dont know what Im talking about, your obviously too healthy to really understand.

    Happy Tails To You!
    Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA, CCS, BGS
    Service Dog Academy, Seattle WA
    Owner/Head Trainer

  • NickDean September 30, 2011 (8:58 pm)

    I don’t help anyone anymore. Unfortunately, I’ve had too many people/friends burn me. Now, more then ever, I notice more amd more people asking for money when you go to the store or pump gas,even at the stop light! I always say No becuase the majority are druggies or scammers. If you have older relatives in your family,please educate them about these scams!

  • wowza September 30, 2011 (10:41 pm)

    $6,000~~~!!! Wish I had it myself. Sad but unbelievable too.

  • nmb October 1, 2011 (12:56 am)

    @Mary: The fact that you felt compelled to include your full name, business name, website, email and phone number in your comment… *TWICE*… and that your first comment implied that if perhaps this hungry and tired woman had a service dog this wouldn’t have happened, tells me that you are spamming.
    Your comment: “Thank God for my diabetic alert dog Liame who can now tell me before I get to the “being able to be convinced of almost anything” stage of blood sugar consciousness.”

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