80-year-old woman loses $1900 to phone scam

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- An elderly Charleston woman told police she thought she was helping a family friend when she wired money to Haiti Wednesday morning.

According to a police report, the woman said she had gotten a phone call around 9 a.m. from a man claiming to be a close friend of the family. She said the man told her he had been arrested in Mexico City and needed $1,900 to make bail.

Police said the victim followed the man's instructions by going to a West Ashley Walmart and using MoneyGram to wire the money. She sent the funds to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to someone named Joseph Wilson.

She tells police she then got a call from someone claiming to be from the US Embassy who told her the money would be refunded but that a lawyer will be needed at an additional cost of $2,100.

This time instead of complying, the victim managed to get in touch with the supposedly arrested family friend who confirmed that he was not in Mexico.

These kinds of scams are well known by authorities who warn that residents should confirm relatives are abroad and in need of help before wiring any money.

A phone call to other relatives will usually debunk the caller's story, or the U.S. Department of State can be called to question the status of family members traveling abroad.