SPRING, Texas – An 81-year-old woman from Spring said she fell victim to a scam that bilked her out of thousands of dollars.
"I got a phone call," Anna Matthias said. "He said he was my grandson, Nicholas."
Matthias said the caller told her he was in a financial bind and needed money quickly. He asked Matthias for money, but not in cash: rather, in the form of gift cards.
"He said, OK, I want you to go to the closest Walmart and I want you to buy two $1,000 gift (cards)," Matthias said.
Matthias did so and every time she did she called the person claiming to be Nicholas from a number he had given her. Every time she called, Matthias said the caller would ask for more gift cards. In all, she bought cards from three Walmart stores and one Target, spending $12,000, as requested over the phone.
"He would tell me every time scratch the numbers off the back, throw the cards and receipts away," Matthias said.
She did so, minus throwing away the cards and receipts, because something didn't seem right.
"He kept calling me saying you got the money yet?" she said.
Matthias got her answer after she showed up at a Bank of America at I-45 and Louetta in Spring.
The caller had asked her for another $9,700. Matthias said the bank's branch manager grew suspicious and called police. Matthias said the bank manager also encouraged her to call "Nicholas" back. She did. That's when Matthias said she knew something was wrong.
The truth came out on the phone after Nicholas slipped up.
"He called me grandma. They've never called me grandma. They call me grand," she said.
It wasn't Nicholas. It was a crook. Matthias had been scammed. Scams targeting the elderly are common, according to law enforcement. KPRC2 found reports of similar scams like the one Matthias experienced in several states, including New York and Alabama.
Scammers target the elderly by posing as a grandchild in need of help. Matthias told KPRC2 the person who called her did so from a number from Canada. KPRC2 called the number but it was out of service.
Experts said the request for money as gift cards form is a red flag. Matthias said she wishes she had known. Much of that money was intended to be used for her daughter who's in hospice care.
"I just had my daughter moved to hospice care today. Doesn't that tell you anything? Part of that money was going to bury her," she said.
Matthias told KPRC2 the Harris County Precinct Four Constable's Office is investigating her claim. She hopes to help others not fall victim as she did.
"Preying on the elderly. It's not a good idea," Matthias said.