Oklahoma family scammed out of hundreds over the phone

NENNEKAH, Okla. – A Nennekah family says they were scammed out of money over the phone.

One afternoon call took Misty and Eric McDowell by surprise.

A man on the other end told them they were eligible for a government grant.

Eric McDowell said, “They said if we pay $175, they would give us $6,900.”

The near $7,000 windfall seemed like an amazing opportunity for the struggling couple.

They were told to buy a disposable debit card on which the money would be transferred.

McDowell said, “We gave them the numbers from the back of the card and they said okay wait 30-45 minutes and you can go to Western Union and you can get your money.”

They waited inside a drug store 45 minutes but nothing happened.

When they called the Washington state number back, the caller told them Governor Mary Fallin’s office needs them to pay $375 dollars to cover the taxes before they receive the money.

“And I said well that kind of makes sense because a lot of times you have to pay taxes on the money that you’re going to get,” said McDowell.

So they paid the money.

The man then told the couple their funds were frozen and they would need to pay another $575 dollars on a single card.

McDowell told the caller they did not have that much money.

The caller quickly lowered the amount to $300.

McDowell said, “I said well I might be able to do that but I’ll have to toss it around. I have to borrow some money because were on a fixed income.”

Desperate to get what they thought was a legitimate grant, they borrowed $300 from relatives and paid the extra fee, but the grant money never came.

Days later the phone started ringing again.

The scammers were fishing for more money.

McDowell said he told the caller, “I told them we don’t have anymore.  I said we’ve already spent $175, $375, and $300.”

McDowell’s step mother recently received a legitimate government grant for education, this made the opportunity seem all the more believable.

Police say there is nothing they can do.

Sheryl Presley with the Oklahoma City Police said, “Once the money is given we can’t get it back.”

Presley said scams like this are happening more and more.

“Whatever you loaded on that card now is basically the scammers when you give them the info. They can do whatever they want with the money and there is no paper trail of it so it pretty much vanishes.” said Presley.

Presley says the bottom line is don’t ever pay for taxes up front and remember the most important thing about phone calls.

“Don’t talk to strangers and don’t give strangers personal information. If a stranger calls you about any opportunity just hang up”