GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—Fruitport Township Police say there have been a number of reports from residents that they have been the target of telephone scams.
A woman from Fruitport Township says she has experienced just about every phone scam there is in the past three months, and now she has a warning for folks in West Michigan.
"The first one, I got from a man in Bolivia, telling me my son is there in the hospital," says Gerta Ernst.
The 88-year-old says she was surprised when she picked up the phone to find a man with an accent asking her to send money for her son. The caller claimed her son was in a car accident in Bolivia on a trip he was taking with a friend named Harry.
"I also asked, how come his friend named Harry, is there?," says Ernst. "He said, 'well they went on a trip together', but I knew my son was at work here you know. Oh baloney."
Coincidentally, her son does have a friend by the same name.
"They must have done some investigating from the computer," says Ernst.
Then came two other calls, claiming she'd won millions. One of those calls came from a man saying he was from California. He told her she needed to give him a check for $299 to get the money, then he tried to arrange a meeting at her home or the local Walgreens.
"When he said, I will be there, then my bell rung," says Ernst. "I said uh huh, you really can fly fast from California to Walgreens? Why do they pick on me?"
Ernst contacted police after her fourth call, this time from a woman saying she was doing a bank survey, asking for her account number. Ernst was getting her checkbook when her cleaning lady stopped her.
"She said, 'don't, don't, that's a trick'," said Ernst.
The woman on the other end of the line then threatened her.
"She said, 'well, if you don't do that within minutes, you know, I can clean out all your bank accounts'. Doesn't that sound scary?", says Ernst.
Police want you to learn from her experiences, they ask that you be on guard and contact them if you get a suspicious call.
"We received a number of calls about different types of phone scams victimizing some of the residents here in Fruitport Township," says Bruce Morningstar, Detective Sergeant. "I think that we just want to get the word out, these things are taking place."
Although Ernst didn't take the bait, she says she felt a little uneasy calling police because she didn't want to be a nuisance. However, detectives say she did the right thing.
"Most people when they realize they are a victim of a scam like this feel embarrassed about calling the police, but we encourage them to do so anyway," says Morningstar.
Morningstar says the best defense to these types of scams is also public education. Information about common scams can be found on the FTC website at the following link:
Police say residents who have computer access can also report these types of incidents directly to the FTC at: