Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey's 77-year-old mother -- targeted by a caller who sought money by falsely claiming her grandson was in jail in another country -- is featured in a new public service announcement warning senior citizens about financial scams, the county's top prosecutor said today.
The district attorney told reporters that her mother, Addie Phillips, sent a wire transfer containing what she believed was "close to $2,000" almost two years ago after being told by someone identifying himself as a police officer to send the money to bail her grandson out of jail, but that her mother was able to get the money back after learning her grandson wasn't in jail and was already back in the United States after traveling in Europe.
"We were lucky," Lacey told reporters from her downtown Los Angeles office.
The district attorney said that she was "stunned" by what had happened and her mother was "pretty devastated" and "embarrassed," but that the two decided to take what was a negative experience to try to alert others about financial scams, including the so-called "grandma scam" that targeted Lacey's mother and typically involves a victim who gets a phone call from someone demanding that money be wired to another country to assist a grandchild in trouble.
The prosecutor said that educating seniors on how to prevent being victimized by financial scams is a top priority for her administration, noting that national statistics show that one in five senior citizens nationwide have been the victim of a financial scam.
"Criminals prey on these most vulnerable and trusting individuals, who have worked hard to build their nest egg," Lacey said, adding that the public service announcement alerts elders so they don't fall victims to such scams.
The public service announcement -- which features Lacey and her mother -- will be broadcast via the LA County Channel (www.lacountychannel.com) on local cable systems, and warns viewers not to wire money to strangers, not to share identifying information such as Social Security and bank account numbers with unsolicited callers and to hang up and call the police if something doesn't feel right.
--City News Service