Some Storytellers Are Very Bad People

This is pretty much off topic, but it’s so upsetting that I feel I must share this, and hope you will too. This happened to my family yesterday.
It was around noon and was busy at work on editing my as-yet-untitled eBook on a bazillion ways to promote your children’s book when my stepmom, Jean, called me and told me, “I’m going to tell you something, but you have to promise me to stay calm.” I’m not known for staying calm in everyday situations, but in extreme moments, I’ve actually been known to rally. I braced myself for the worst possible news.
She told me that she’d just gotten off the phone with my 17-year-old son, Benny, who I assumed was still asleep in his room. He was in jail, she told me, and had also spoken to the police officer who had arrested him and three of his friends trying to cross the Canadian border with a big bag of weed.
“He’s not asleep in his bed?” I asked her, completely uncomprehending.
“No,” she said, “I just got off the phone with him.”
She knows him well, so I started conferencing in my husband, Jerry, as she’d asked me to do. My hands were shaking because of the adrenaline rush and I felt like vomiting. A million disturbing nightmarish thoughts flew through my head at one time: my baby was far away, in a cold jail cell, his summer plans ruined – and what about college? What about his future? And thank God his 18th birthday hadn’t arrived. At the same time, I was leaving my studio above my garage and making my way to the house. By the time I got up to the top of the second floor where Benny’s room is, Jerry and I were hearing about how Benny had gotten himself up to Niagara Falls and —
I walked into his room, expecting to see his bed empty, but there he was. But was he? My stepmom was on the phone, telling me he wasn’t there. I said, “He’s here!”
She said, not knowing I was staring at him, “No, Katie, he’s in Niagara Falls.”
I actually had the thought that I might be imagining what I was seeing. I reached out and squeezed his arm, which of course, woke him. “No, he’s here, sleeping.”
We instantly realized it was a scam. Here is Jean’s part of the story, but before you read it, imagine my stepmom: she’s a gorgeous early 60-something, highly professional, corporate senior executive. She is no doddering granny.
“Yesterday I spent several hours on the phone with someone who sounded like, and professed to be Benny. I will give you the short story form…basically the kid said he was Benny ( he sounded just like him), that he had had a big fight with his parents and said he was leaving to spend the night with his friend Dave but instead they flew to Buffalo as Dave was going there anyway and then drove to Niagra Falls then into Canada…coming back across the border they were pulled over for a routine car inspection and a 2.5 ounce bag of weed was found in one of the friends suitcases. They were all 4 arrested and given drug tests..Benny was clean but the friends were not. The boys were being kept separated and could not talk to one another.
“The kid who said he was Benny sounded very sincere, said he was cooperating with the police but did not want to tell his parents as he was scared to after their big fight…. and thats why he called me..he wanted to get home and tell his parents himself…he was so sorry about all the trouble and had no idea his friends had drugs in their luggage.
“In the meantime, the supposed police officer got on the phone and identified himself as Police Officer Jim Miller from the Niagra Falls police station… told me what happened and said that Benny seemed sincere, was clean and he believed his story. However, all 4 boys were arrested and were being charged. There was a court date today and one in three weeks time. Benny could be released on bail bond with an International Bail bondsman and he would call me back with the information about one in Buffalo. In the meantime he put the fake Benny back on the phone who again begged me not to involve his parents yet as he wanted to tell them in person but was only allowed one phone call.
“I can’t tell you how real it was, how potentially true the story was, how easily something like this could have happened, etc., etc. When I called Katie to get Jerry on the phone to tell them what was going on, I had already spent well over an hour on the phone with this young man and then the police officer and was waiting for the call back with the bail bondman information…of course, I was told it had to be sent from Western Union and would have to be cash, etc., etc. I had no intention of sending anyone money and not involving the parents but the situation was real to me and very, very upsetting at the time. I was waiting for the police office to call back with the internationl bailbondsman’s information to Katie.
“I got Katie and Jerry on the phone and she rushed up to Benny’s room and said, “He is here! He is here!”
“Of course, the police officerperson did not call back with the information as I said I must involve the parents and give me the info and we would handle it properly. Very scary.
“I don’t know how the connection was made but we should spread the word that this is a scam involving kids, friends, grandparents, etc.
“Some amazing and realistic scam….so everyone should be on the lookout for things like this. Somehow they connected me to him and the fake police person asked if I was his Grandmother and a direct relative.
“I would spread the word among the teen friends, too …I would imagine information was pieced together via Facebook info or some social network site…not sure. But it happened…..and I am listed in the phone book.
“All is well that ends well. I spoke to the police who gently told me no crime was committed and it would be very hard to trace this as they most likely used a one-off phone….there was no call back number on my redial so I could not trace it or call back…BEWARE.”

Recent Comments

  • Kelly Light
    July 12, 2011 - 6:57 am · Reply

    Katie – That is so scary. I have heard of this before- done to a much older Grandmother. It is a violation of your little family corner of the world. How did they know her info? Your son’s? Somehow they have been tracking her. I disagree with the police officer- it is a crime, it’s some form of harassment. I wish it never happened to you guys. It’s just awful. I’m sure he woke up in that messy room and got a big hug!

  • cherie
    July 12, 2011 - 7:33 am · Reply

    If all the evil geniuses of the world united to do good, we’d have a cure for cancer by now! Thanks for sharing this, Katie. I’m calling my mom……. c:

  • Emilie boon
    July 12, 2011 - 9:02 am · Reply

    Wow! Katie that is scary and absolutely awful. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. Thank goodness you figured it all out so soon! Thanks for sharing.

  • kevan atteberry
    July 12, 2011 - 9:23 am · Reply

    holy cow! I’ve heard about these scams and have received the”personal emails” from friends stuck out of country, needing money, yada yada, but I’ve not heard of it done over the phone. I’m glad you figured it out!

  • Susan Ross
    July 12, 2011 - 10:21 am · Reply

    My e-mail was hacked into and everyone on my contact list was e-mailed that I was in England (with a line saying “sorry I forgot to tell you I was going there”), had been mugged and needed 3,000 pounds to pay my hotel bill. Fortunately I discovered this scam quickly, and changed my password so no one could converse with the scammer. It took days to get my contact list and saved e-mails back, but fortunately Yahoo was able to do it for me.

    • Soozcat
      August 6, 2011 - 3:42 am · Reply

      Susan, the very same thing happened to our downstairs neighbor about a year ago. She was quick on the draw and got help from us and from the local police department, and all was eventually well. (She’s since learned that using any password which appears in a dictionary is a Very Bad Idea.)

  • Julie
    August 18, 2011 - 8:46 pm · Reply

    First of all, WOW, that is just unbelievable and so sad! I am so grateful your son is ok!
    As a storyteller myself, your blog title grabbed my attention.. !!

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