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In Your Corner: Senior loses life savings

OKLAHOMA CITY – 88 year-old Bob Coleman is sharp as a tack, but it wasn’t enough to keep his money safe.

The World War II Veteran says someone, posing as a family member from California, recently scammed him out $33,000.

“He started off by saying, ‘This is your nephew and I’m in jail,’” Coleman said. “’I had a fight. I lost my billfold and I need some money.’”

His nephew was supposedly jailed in Mexico and desperate to post bond.

Elaine Dodd is head of the fraud unit for the Oklahoma Bankers Association.

“They’re saying they are the grandchild, the nephew to them, and that they are in trouble,” Dodd said. “’I’m so sorry. I was in Mexico [or] I was in Canada. I was at a wedding [and] drinking. Whatever you do do not call mom and dad.’”

We’ve warned you about these wire transfer scams before.

In Bob’s case, a second scammer pretended to be his nephew’s attorney.

They convinced the senior to do a large wire transfer to Guadalajara, Mexico, under the guise the cash was for a down payment on a beach house.

Bob’s family can’t believe their elderly father was able to walk into his bank and wire nearly all of his life’s savings to another country.

“Our position is that there should have been red flags all over this deal from the minute my dad walked in,” Bob’s daughter, Susan Shebester, said. “He hadn’t been in that bank in five years. They didn’t know him. He had $40,000 in the bank and they’re going to send 85 percent of what he has in the bank, for a beach house.”

First Fidelity Bank President and C.E.O., Lee Symcox sent us a statement. He says, “Mr. Coleman visited the bank in person.  We had no reason to doubt his instructions, or to deny Mr. Coleman the use of his money.”

He goes onto say, “This is an unfortunate situation. We require ongoing training of all our employees on fraud, and will continue to do so. We will assist Mr. Coleman and the authorities in apprehending these criminals in any way possible.” 

Dodd, an anti-fraud trainer, says Oklahoma bankers are some of the most educated on fraud prevention in the U.S.

“We’re all working to try to say, for instance, can we look more closely, or monitor more closely a senior’s bank account,” she said. “Right now, that’s discrimination. So we can’t do that.”

Bob hopes sharing his ordeal publicly educates not only other seniors, but the bankers on the front lines of this epidemic.    

The In Your Corner bottom line:

  • Wiring money is like sending cash. There are no protections in place for the person wiring the money.
  • If you receive a strange phone call, verify the supposed emergency by contacting friends and family first.