Wilmington mother warns of money extortion phone scam

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Imagine getting a call that your teen was drinking and driving, involved in an accident, and taken to jail, only to find out it was all an elaborate hoax to steal money.

One Wilmington mother wants to warn others about a scam that rocked her world Thursday.

Kristin Benton says her 89-year-old grandfather got a call that her 16-year-old son was taken to jail after he injured someone while driving under the influence.

“He doesn’t know any better, he’s 89. Like I said, he’ll be 90 in May. He trusts people. Back then you could,” said Benton.

Someone pretending to be her son even spoke to her grandfather on the phone.

“Somebody was talking to my grandpa as my son. And that’s what led him to believe that my son was really in trouble,” said Benton.

Benton got the info from her grandpa and called the supposed “lawyer” back in a panic.

“He said I needed to wire transfer $4500 to Empire Bonding, which is a bail bondsman out of New York,” said Benton.

At that point, Benton decided to reach out to the authorities.

“I start calling around, I call every sheriff’s department, Wilmington Police Department, nobody can tell me where my son is,” she said.

Feeling like she had no other option, Benton went to the bank to transfer the money. But before she made the transfer, her boyfriend asked if she had tried to call her son.

“I called him, and he didn’t answer, and I’m like ‘oh man’, and he turned around and called me back, and he was at school the whole time. I was right there ready to send them the money,” she said.

As a single mother, she says losing that money would have been financially devastating.

Benton’s worry quickly turned to anger. Now she wants to warn others about the scam.

“Slow down and think about it. The signs were there, but I was just so out of my element with it that I couldn’t think straight. I was more worried about getting my son out of jail than the money,” she said.

Benton says she changed her grandfather’s phone number as a precaution.

Lt. Jerry Brewer says the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office is aware of scams like these. He says another popular one in our area is telling people they missed jury duty and must pay a fine.

Brewer says if you ever receive a call like this, contact authorities.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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