FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – It began like so many others.

The elderly woman received a call on her birthday from a man claiming to be with the Allen County Sheriff’s Department.

Her grandson had been in a car accident. He was in jail. He was okay, the man told her, but he rear-ended someone while he was reaching for his phone. And that someone just happened to be a powerful Fort Wayne politician.

That politician, the man continued, wanted her grandson arrested.

Did she have any money for bail?

It’s dubbed by experts who track these as the “grandparent scam” – where people prey upon the emotions of the elderly – and both the Allen County Sheriff’s and Fort Wayne Police departments were investigating two separate but similar accounts of it happening in the area this week.

The scammers in the above case bilked the county woman out of $11,500 cash; others – or possibly the same ones, police don’t know yet – took a city man for $10,000 cash using a similar method that same day.

It’s not just the elderly, though. Scammers go after everyone.

“In the day and age we live in, scammers are good at what they do or they wouldn’t be doing it,” said Nichole Thomas, spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana.

If you’re asked to pay a utility bill with a gift card, it’s a scam. If you’re sending money to someone who promises to show you a home for sale or rent, but you’ve never met that person, do your research. If you see an item online that’s being offered at more than 10 percent less than most other places and it’s not a part of a sale, research.

This man scammed an elderly person out of $10,000 by pretending to be an employee of an attorney. (Fort Wayne Police)

If someone who is doing “surveys” in your neighborhood knocks on your door and offers you a great deal on a new roof because you so need one, do some research.

Research, research, research, Thomas stressed.

“If you see something for $250 and it’s $1,000 everywhere else, you might get a rock in a box sent to you,” Thomas said. “That’s happened.”

You can even research scams by going to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker website.

“It’s never your fault, but there are things you can do.” Thomas said. “”You need to become a smarter consumer.”

Scams involving crypto currency have grown in numbers, according to Thomas, especially when it comes to raising supposed donations.

Crypto is almost untraceable, something scammers have latched onto, and they’ve taken advantage. Since Ukraine is in the news lately, a lot of people have been targeted with “fundraisers” for those living in the war beleaguered nation.

A lot of these are asking for donations through crypto. And they work like many scams.

“Once it’s gone, there’s not a lot of ways to get the money back,” Thomas said. “It’s sad, but true.”

The elderly have always been a target for scammers. What’s unusual in the recent cases police are investigating, though, is that people actually came to the front doors of their victims and interacted with their targets in person.

They almost always involve phone calls, as the two recent ones also included.

“We see these scams all the time, especially around spring break or vacation time, when grandparents might know their grandkids are travelling,” Thomas said. “Sometimes, grandparents don’t always remember things, or they don’t always remember their grandkids’ voices.”

Fort Wayne Police were investigating a scam where a man came to the victim’s door and said he was an employee for an attorney that was representing the victim’s niece in a court case. The man said he needed cash for a payment.

The victim’s niece was impersonated over the phone, police said.

Soon thereafter, the scammer walked away with $10,000 cash.

Police are asking the public’s help in identifying the man, who was captured in surveillance photos. He’s described as a Black man with short hair and a medium or muscular build. He was wearing glasses and a black face covering and a white puffy coat with “Armoni” written all over it, police said.

Anyone with information on the man should call the Fort Wayne Police Department at (260) 427-1201, Crime Stoppers at (260) 436-7867, or use the anonymous “P3” tips app.

“Never render payment at your home,” a Fort Wayne police spokesman said.

While on the phone with the scammer claiming her grandson was in a car accident with a politician, the woman targeted in the county did ask to speak to her grandson.

The man on the other end of the line obliged, and another man’s voice began speaking.

“Grandma, it’s me,” someone said.

It sounded just like her grandson.

“She was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it really is him!'” said Elizabeth, the wife of the woman’s grandson.

WANE15 is not using her last name to keep her grandmother-in-law safe from being targeted by more potential scammers.

That scam eventually intensified over several phone calls:

Her grandson was all of a sudden not looking so well, the scammers told her. They took him to the hospital. Oh, by the way, he tested positive for COVID-19. Do you have $16,000 to get him out of this situation? No? How about $11,500?

At the bank, the tellers asked the woman if she was sure – for real sure – she wanted to withdraw this much cash. Was she sure it wasn’t a scam? Her husband had recently passed away, and this was money she had saved for a new car.

But her grandson was in trouble.

“It makes you lose a little bit of faith in humanity,” Elizabeth said.

Shortly after returning from the bank with a box containing all the money in cash, a young Hispanic man with a sleeveless shirt and gold chains draped around his neck showed up at her door. There was no car parked in the street; he just appeared.

He asked if the woman had the money.

When she handed it over, he told her good things would happen, and that maybe she and her grandson could go out for a steak dinner that night.

Only, didn’t her grandson have COVID-19, she thought.

Later, she called her grandson asking if he got out of jail.

“It’s a horrible situation,” Elizabeth said. “Grammy is just beating herself up about it. She said, ‘Well, I guess I’m not getting my new car.’ It makes me very angry. Why do you feel entitled to do that when she’s worked her whole life to get what she got?”

The fact that it happened on the woman’s birthday was just salt in the wound.

An Allen County Police officer came to the woman’s home to take a report.

She noted down everything the woman and Elizabeth said.

The officer went to several neighbors asking if they had any surveillance cameras outside their homes, or if they saw anything. She also gave Elizabeth and the woman several phone numbers to call, in the off chance they wanted to report the scam to other entities that track such cases or just to check if there was anything else they could do.

The money, though, was likely gone.

It may not have been much, but that police officer did one more thing, maybe the only other thing anyone could think of to try to salvage the woman’s day:

She returned to the woman’s home later that day.

The officer carried with her a birthday cake.