Scary phone call teaches valuable lesson

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Kirsteen Wolf

The Broadside

Editor’s note: The Broadside has
made a decision to not print the last
names of the people involved in the
story with the exception of Terry
Botts and Sargent Beekman.

Terri Botts, the administrative assistant for the dean of student and enrollment services office, got the kind of call that everymother dreads. Botts’ mother informed her that her son Jeff was in jail in Canada.

“My heart stopped,” said Botts.

Botts got the impression that her mother had spoken directly to Jeff. The story was that Jeff was in Canada at a funeral of a friend’s father. There he met a couple of fellows that he hit it off with and they asked for a ride. While driving, Jeff was stopped by police for a broken tail light and drugs were found in the car. Jeff said that they were not his. He was now in jail and needed $5,000. He begged that his mother
not be called.

Botts knew that the drugs were not her son’s. But being at the wrong place and the wrong time was a possibility. Botts called Jeff’s father. She then called Jeff’s girlfriend to tell her what was happening as Jeff apparently had used his only phone call from jail to call his grandmother.

Jeff’s girlfriend thought the story was some kind of joke and then she handed the phone over to Jeff. He was sitting next to her, very far from a jail cell in Canada.

The call had been an attempt at elder fraud.
“That call pushed the ultimate emotional button. It scrambled my common sense,” said Botts.

The whole time line from call to Botts to the resolution from talking to Jeff was about half an hour.

It was actually Botts’ father who had taken a call from a person impersonating Jeff. The caller was whispering, making the details hard to hear. The part about the funeral in Canada was legitimate, Jeff had talked about that. That detail helped convince Botts that the story was true. It’s unclear how the caller got that information. The grandparents felt compelled to send money but they made a very important call
first.

“Telephone scammers are good at what they do. They say anything and target everyone to try to cheat people out of money,”
according to the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

“We see targeting across the age spectrum.” said Sargent Brian Beekman from the Bend Police Department. Beekman worked on a fraud
case that involved scam artists using the name of a local bank.

“Put the caller off and contact the institution directly,” said Beekman if the fraud involves someone posing as a representative of your bank.

In other words, before acting, verify the information. In the case of Botts, her mother reached out to another family member and that made all the difference. She also called her sister to tell her what had happened. In that conversation, Bott’s mother found out that her sister had been keeping a secret for five years.

She had fallen prey to an almost identical scam where she paid $10,000 in the belief that one of her sons was in a foreign
jail and needed money for his release.

“It’s a cautionary tale,” said Botts.

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