NATIONAL

HI GRANNY, IT’S LUKE

A Wal-Mart worker foils a scam thought to originate in Canada

CATHY GULLI September 4 2006
NATIONAL

HI GRANNY, IT’S LUKE

A Wal-Mart worker foils a scam thought to originate in Canada

CATHY GULLI September 4 2006

HI GRANNY, IT’S LUKE

A Wal-Mart worker foils a scam thought to originate in Canada

CATHY GULLI

An alleged Canadian con man whose telephone scams may have cost an untold number of elderly Americans their life savings is under close watch by an unlikely investigator: a Wal-Mart employee. Linda Ranabargar works behind the customer service desk at the discount superstore in Loveland, Colo. During a F riday shift in July she met Marie Adams, an 83-year-old grandmother, who approached the counter for help mailing money to Canada. Suspicious, Ranabargar asked what for. Adams, who seldom hears from her grandchildren, explained

that earlier in the day she had received a phone call from a man who said he was her grandson. “Matthew?” she wrongly guessed. “Luke?” “Right,” the man replied. He had been in a fight, he lamented, and was in jail in Canada. Could grandma Adams send him $3,000 for bail? When she regretted that she didn’t have that much in her savings account, the man advised Adams to use her Visa to get the cash, and go to Wal-Mart to mail it.

Ranabargar had seen this before. Only a week earlier, an old man had come in with a similar story and $5,800 to be sent. The next day the grandfather called her: it was a scam! His grandchild was fine! This time Ranabargar wouldn’t make the same mistake. “I told [Adams], ‘Ma’am, I don’t mean to be rude, but I won’t do this for you,’ ” she told reporters. Instead, Ranabargar called the police, who agreed it was a hoax. (U.S. authorities say such scams are profuse, and the only way to combat them is by verifying the claims made before handing over any money.) “I just hope someday there’s somebody out there watching over my loved ones,” Ranabargar said. M