Rochester woman loses $18K in phone scam

Feb. 26—ROCHESTER — An 87-year-old Rochester woman was scammed out of $18,000 with a common scam that had a not-so common twist.

According to a Rochester Police report, the woman received a phone call Thursday morning, Feb. 22, from someone claiming to be her son, who lives in Colorado. The man told her he had been in a car crash, wasn't hurt but was in jail and needed money for bail. He gave her a phone number, which was reportedly for an attorney she could call.

The woman called the number. That attorney told her the crash had injured a pregnant woman and her son could be in serious trouble. After multiple phone conversations with the man claiming to be an attorney, the woman agreed to withdraw money for bail.

A person reportedly showed up to the woman's house to collect the money.

The man said little and was wearing a medical mask, said Rochester Police Capt. Casey Moilanen.

"This is a common scam, but what's uncommon is that someone showed up to collect the money," Moilanen said.

The man left on foot and the woman didn't see him get into a car.

Later in the day, the woman got suspicious and called her son, who said he hadn't been in a crash.

Moilanen said two factors can make people more vulnerable to these scams.

"If you're putting a lot of stuff on social media, it's easy for scammers to get this information," he said.

The man claiming to be the woman's son seemed to know enough things her son would know to put on a convincing performance, he said.

Another is the rise of fake video and audio generated by artificial intelligence, Moilanen added.

"If there's video of a person talking on social media, they can use that in coordination with artificial intelligence to make it sound like you're speaking to your son and daughter or loved one," Moilanen said. "The future is going to be a lot more complicated as far as these scams are concerned."

Moilanen added that investigators aren't sure if AI was deployed in this scam.

Although the person who picked up the money was acting locally, the callers could have been anywhere else, he said. The incident is under investigation.