PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Port St. Lucie police have a warning for the public after four recent cases of what they're calling the "Grandparent Scam" that cost the elderly victims almost $100,000.
It started with a phone call back in October, when Eric Lieberman's 86-year-old mother in Greenacres answered.
"It was supposedly an attorney for my nephew, her grandson. He was arrested and needed bail money," Lieberman said. "On the call, they did end up having her speak to my nephew, her grandson, and she swore it sounded like him."
Lieberman said the person on the other line told his mom that her grandson needed $50,000 in bail money and asked her not to call her grandson, but just to gather the cash as quickly as she can.
"She was able to pull out $16,000 out of one of her accounts. They called an Uber that was supposedly picking up the cash for the bail bondsmen," Lieberman told Contact 5. "He ended up all the way down in Fort Lauderdale and handed the envelope, which I'm sure he had no idea had a boatload of cash in it, to a guy on a street corner."
While investigators in Palm Beach County work on cracking the case, the same crime that is often called the "Grandparent Scam" is now occurring on the Treasure Coast.
"Within the past week, we have received four incidents involving elderly victims," Port St. Lucie Assistant Police Chief Marc DiMeo said. "The money was ranging anywhere from $9,000 to $48,000 in money that was taken from different times, totaling about $100,000."
DiMeo told Contact 5 this has happened before in Port St. Lucie, but this is the first time they've seen an app like Uber being utilized to carry out the crime.
"That's something new that we have not seen before, but we are seeing it now in these four instances, but that, again, led to the urgency and led to that sense of panic for our victims when the vehicle showed up and they handed the package off," DiMeo said. "They didn't have time to react."
According to police reports, Port St. Lucie police were able to gather some information from the Uber drivers in some of the cases that could help the investigation.
In the meantime, both police and Lieberman have this warning for others.
"In the end, my mother ended up calling my nephew's cellphone and to find out he's OK," Lieberman said. "If someone's asking you for money for someone specific, call that person, verify it. Don't listen to the 'do not call.'"