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Walmart clerks save Millwood woman from grandparents scam

Alyce Bailey is thankful that her grandson, Levi Hess, was driving a forklift at Spalding Auto Parts in Spokane Valley on Tuesday and not in a Canadian jail, as a telephone caller had nearly convinced her.  (Dan Pelle)
Alyce Bailey is thankful that her grandson, Levi Hess, was driving a forklift at Spalding Auto Parts in Spokane Valley on Tuesday and not in a Canadian jail, as a telephone caller had nearly convinced her. (Dan Pelle)

Alyce Bailey wants others to avoid the trouble she encountered last week when she nearly fell victim to a swindle known as the grandparents scam.

Bailey was so fooled by the telephone caller that she was sobbing and ready to wire $4,200 to a supposed lawyer in Canada, she said.

Fortunately for her, the scenario raised red flags for the money-counter clerks at Walmart in Spokane Valley – where Bailey went to purchase a money order – and they convinced Bailey to do a double-check.

She did. She never sent the money, and now she is thankful to the store staff.

“I want to make it well known,” she said in an interview last week. “If I could be duped, other people could be duped, too.”

In fact, law officers said the scam works all too often.

Last fall, a Spokane woman told The Spokesman-Review she was bilked out of $17,000 in a similar scam.

Bailey, a regular newspaper reader, said she must have missed the story about that woman’s loss.

Here’s what happened:

On Tuesday, Bailey, of Millwood, said she received a phone call and the man on the other end of the line said, “Hello, Grandma.”

She responded by saying, “Hello, Levi.”

The man then assumed Levi’s identity and explained that he had flown to Montreal, Canada, on a bargain flight to see a sporting event and that on the way back to his room, he and a friend got into an accident. He further explained he’d had two drinks and had been arrested. He said he had some bumps and bruises and that his friend needed stitches.

She said the man also explained that he had a sore throat, in an apparent attempt to conceal the problem of having a different voice.

He said he needed money, and he needed it fast so he could get out of jail and catch his return flight later that day.

Bailey, 73, said she should have suspected she was being duped right then. For one, her grandson doesn’t drink.

But she said her emotions took over.

The man instructed her to obtain a money order and address it to a supposed attorney. He said he would call back later to get the receipt number at a specified time.

The man also told her not to tell anyone else about the arrangement.

She and her husband, Glenn Bailey, went to the Walmart at 15727 E. Broadway Ave., where the clerks recognized the scam and strongly suggested she make an attempt to reach the grandson independently, she said.

Bailey called the grandson’s workplace, and he was there.

Back at home, Bailey took the last of two return calls from the swindler and told him she knew he was lying and hung up.

Bailey said she notified the sheriff’s office, but they told her the attempted crime would not be investigated.

A Walmart spokeswoman said that clerks are trained to watch out for scams and try to work with customers to discern their situations.

“Thank God for the ladies at Walmart,” Bailey said. The swindler “had me hook, line and sinker.”



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