PRINCEVILLE — When someone called Alan and Susie Faye claiming to be their great-granddaughter, they didn’t think twice.
But they were being scammed.
“Susie answered the phone, and Alexis said “Tutu, am I calling too early? I’m kind of in a bad way right now, and I need to talk to you about a problem I’m having,” Alan Faye said. “Susie is Tutu. Who else knows that?”
During the conversation on Dec. 9 Alexis told Susie she and a friend flew to Miami, and were in a cab when the Florida Highway Patrol pulled them over. During the traffic stop, officers found a bag of marijuana in trunk and the girls were taken to jail. Alexis was asking for $4,000 bail.
“Then the sergeant, Richard Parker, came on the phone. He told us they knew the girls were clean, but since they got caught in a crime scene, they needed to be bailed out,” Faye said. “Boy, was that convincing. That’s when we went to the bail money. But $4,000 is not easy to come by, especially this time of year.”
They were given a 12:30 p.m. deadline to send the money.
The Fayes, who live in Princeville, were in panic mode, Faye said.
“And when you do that, what do you do?” he said.
After going to Walmart and buying four $1,000 gift cards, the Fayes called the sergeant back and gave them the PIN numbers for every card. The sergeant told them they would get a call from Alexis when they were released.
They never heard back.
Faye, 84, called Alexis’ grandmother to get Alexis’ number.
“She answered the phone, and when Susie asked her where she was, she said she was home in bed in Utah,” Faye said. “So right then, we knew for sure she was safe and someone was able to impersonate her to the nth degree. That voice fooled both of us.”
When they got the first call, Faye was suspicious, but the woman on the other end did a good job mimicking Alexis’ voice.
“We had to believe it was Alexis,” he said.
After realizing they had been scammed, Faye said he looked up the area code of the phone number — 438. That area code is in Canada, he said.
“If I had done that, I would have known it was a hoax,” he said.
In the days that followed, Faye filed a report with the Kauai Police Department, contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation, First Hawaiian Bank and Walmart,
“This is a felony, people go to jail for fraud and scam,” he said. “It’s not over yet.”
First Hawaiian Bank is trying to track where the money was spent, but there are no leads, Faye said.
To help Kauai residents better understand how to handle scams, the Kauai Police Department hosts community meetings about scam and fraud alerts at neighborhood meetings and neighborhood watch meetings. KPD officers also visit senior centers and elderly care facilities, said Sarah Blane, county spokeswoman.
Children and senior citizens are popular targets for scam artists as they tend to be more trusting of unknown individuals, according to KPD.
Common scam reports for seniors include the grandparent scam, medicare fraud and two mortgage scams.
When it comes to grandparent scams, a scammer will call pretending to be a grandchild or great-grandchild to get money. When a grandparent answers the phone, the scammer will usually ask them if they know who it is. And once the relationship is established, they will ask for money. The excuse for the cash is to post bail, according to KPD.
Faye wants other people to know that if it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone.
“I don’t mind people knowing I lost $4,000,” he said. “I want people to know they can be put in the same boat.”