Most of us go through life assuming that we will never get caught in a scam. We always assume we're too smart to be fooled, we know the signs, or even that it just won't happen to us, but that isn't always the case.
In November of 2016, we talked to Ruth Reinkensmeyer, the 75-year-old grandmother who was caught in a Grandparent Scam.
Reinkensmeyer was conned for more than $75,000 when she heard was told by the scammers that her grandson was in a Mexican prison. Over a two-week period, the scammers guided her into buying iTunes gift cards and reading them the numbers over the phone. She would read the numbers and be guided to the next store. Each day had more problems, and of course, more money required.
Since finding out she had been scammed it's been hard on Ruth. She now goes to bed every night with more and more questions.
“Every night I go to bed and I think, where's the money going to come from how am I going to pay for this?” said Reinkensmeyer.
She withdrew money from the accounts that fed her insurance and her mortgage. She has since had to re-mortgage her house and pray for the best to come.
Her daughter, Debbie Clarke, has also been helping her not just financially but also in trying to get any of the money back.
"“I've made over a hundred phone calls," said Clarke. "I did over a hundred e-mails and as of today I'm still doing emails and phone calls.”
She has even written a hand-written note to the CEO of apple asking for assistance. But as of now, no positive response. The stress reaching past Ruth and into her daughter.
“Seeing my mom struggle [has been hard] because you know I'm part of the family so when she struggles I struggle along with her,” said Clarke.
“I know how [scams] work and most of the time, once the money is gone it's lost," said Reinkensmeyer. "So I never really thought that I would get the money back.”
Most people who are scammed assume the same thing and when they reach out to the police they are given bad news.
Poplar Bluff has a cyber-crimes task force. They focus mostly on cases involving child pornography but they do also see some scam calls.
“We receive several a week," said Detective Scott Phelps, a member of the task force. "I mean it happens daily we get reports of someone being scammed.”
Phelps said that he hears of many scams including the Grandparent Scam all the time. Once they start to investigate they will quickly be able to tell if they can continue with the investigation or if they have hit a dead in.
“First thing we do is we want to gather any information about the person that they've been in contact with because a lot of times they've been in contact with him for some time,” he said.
This is where they will apply for a subpoena and figure out how much farther they can investigate. If the number or email that the scammers are using is registered overseas or in any other country they can no longer go on.
"The cost associated with, say an extradition from another country, the Butler County Prosecutor doesn't have the money to spend to extradite someone from Nigeria to Butler County,” he said.
Det. Phelps estimates that 85 percent of the calls they receive on scams are from people who have not fallen victim to the scam but would like to alert the police to the scam. That leaves 15 percent of those to keep the scammers coming back, which is why most scams start with a mass-email.
"That's what they're banking on. They realize that most people won't fall for it. They just need the handful that does. That's all they need,” said Det. Phelps.
Which is why they continue to send the emails and call relentlessly. Once someone falls for it, they continue to milk the story and try to get as much money out of them as possible. Which can cause people to lose all of their retirement, like Ruth.
“I always felt so sorry for people this has happened to and all but never dreaming I would be in that situation,” said Reinkensmeyer.
If you have been a victim of a scam or had a scam attempted on you the best thing for you to do is to contact your local police so that they can alert the public.
Ruth's family has set up a Go-Fund-Me. If you would like to help Ruth financially you can do so by clicking here.
For more information on the Scamboree you can go to Aging Matters' website by clicking here. The number to call for reservations is 573-335-3331.