Cecil Rodgers was looking forward to spending Christmas with his adult grandchildren until he got a call from one of them.
"A voice comes on and says, 'Papaw, this is your oldest grandson. I'm in trouble,'" he said.
The grandson said he had been in a car crash.
"He said, 'I hit a woman's car and she was seven months pregnant. And they charged me with drunken driving and I'm in jail,'" Rodgers said.
Rodgers' grandson put a lawyer on the phone who said he needed to go to a Walmart in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio, and do a direct store-to-store money transfer of $2,300 to another Walmart in Bel Air, Maryland. That would then pay his bail.
Rodgers said the supposed lawyer told him: "I'm going to try to get him out so he can drive home."
So Rodgers did as instructed, withdrew $2,300 from his bank and headed for Walmart.
Clerk gets suspicious
Normally the story ends there, with another senior scammed. But not this time, because Rodgers chose the line with cashier Audrella Taylor at the register.
"He said something about somebody was locked up in jail, he got a call and he needed to send $2,300," she said.
The five-year Walmart employee immediately suspected Rodgers was being set up, so she took action.
"I said, 'I am going to refuse the sender. I'm not going to let you send that money. I think you are being scammed,'" Taylor said.
Taylor told him to go home and call his children and find out if there had really been a crash. There hadn't been one. It turns out his grandson was safe at college.
Scammers tell you not to tell anyone
Here's why this scam often is successful: The scammers tell the senior not to tell anyone what they are doing, including other family members or clerks in the store.
Taylor said that was the red flag.
"Because his daughter hadn't been contacted yet, I felt like if a son was in true need, the mom would have been contacted first before the grandpa would," she said.
Walmart store manager Dominic Gross commended Taylor for quick thinking.
"We are very happy with Audrella and all our customer service associates who help in that manner," he said, explaining that they now train cashiers on the warning signs that someone transferring money or buying large amounts of gift cards is being scammed.
Rodgers is thanking Taylor, too, for saving him $2,300 and saving his family's Christmas.
"I don't have much," he said.
Unfortunately, not all scams are thwarted by store clerks. Let your older relatives know about the "grandparent scam," so they don't fall victim to it and so you don't waste your money.
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