Iowa Grocery Clerk Credited With Foiling Scam, Saving Elderly Woman $1,100

grocery clerk Western Union scamAn elderly Iowa woman was apparently saved from losing $1,100 after an observant grocery store clerk thought the senior citizen might be the victim of a scam.

The clerk, Paul Johnson, was working the customer service counter at a Hy-Vee supermarket in Davenport, Iowa, on Wednesday when the 87-year-old customer approached and said that she needed to wire some money, the Quad-City Times reports.

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Upon placing the Western Union form on the counter, the woman commented on her eyesight and the clerk offered to help her fill out the paperwork.

When he asked to whom she was sending the money, the customer began looking in her purse for the name of the person.

"That was a red flag," Johnson told the newspaper. "If they're trying to send money to people they don't know, that's the biggest red flag."

As it turned out, the woman wasn't trying to send the $1,099 to a family member or friend. Rather, she apparently thought she was sending it to Publishers Clearing House, to pay taxes on a $100,000 prize the she was told over the phone that she'd won.

According to a police report of the incident, the woman was following directions given to her by a woman identifying herself as "Deborah Holland," who said she was calling from Publishers Clearing House, the venerable direct-marketing company that operates ongoing sweepstakes.

Johnson talked the woman out of sending the money and alerted police to the possible "granny scam," so-called because perpetrators prey on senior citizens -- frequently female -- in an attempt to defraud them.

Such crimes occur frequently, which is why Publishers Clearing House alerts consumers that participation in its sweepstakes don't require a purchase. That's true of nearly all such contests, according to the Federal Trade Commission website.

The woman, who hasn't been identified in press reports, is calling Johnson her "guardian angel," for saving her from falling victim to the scam, Quad Cities-area TV station WQAD reports.

She has since redeposited the money in her bank account and informed those who have continued to make the calls that she believes it is a scam.

Neither police nor local media have had any luck in speaking with "Deborah Holland" or anyone else answering the number that was provided to the woman as falsely representing Publishers Clearing House.

As for Johnson, he says that he didn't do anything extraordinary. "I think most of the people who work in customer service would've caught it," he told the Quad-City Times. "I'm happy she didn't send the money."

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David Schepp

Staff Writer

David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. The syndicated column appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide before it made its debut on DailyFinance in 2010. Schepp now continues that tradition at Aol Jobs, covering the jobs beat and providing readers insight and analysis into the nation's challenging employment scene.

Schepp holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver.

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I agree 100% with ALL of these posts ! I get these S.O.B.'s in my e-mails all the time and I always reply with a string of obsenitys, all in caps SUCK MY----, KISS MY---,GO F-----YOUR SELF. HOW F-----N' DUMB DO YOU THINK I AM ????, AS DUMB AS YOU ARE???,LEARN HOW TO SPELL ENGLISH,YOU CO----SUCKER!! I NEVER get a reply back !!! I wonder why ??? I'm 74,don't I qualify ? I was always told to respect your elders. Never look back,No Regrets. F----k 'em !!!!!!!!!!!! P.S.and the mule,camel they rode in on.

March 05 2012 at 6:29 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Wasn't this in the news a couple of months ago?

March 05 2012 at 6:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That is a hugh red flag when someone says you have won money & want you to send in the money for taxes. Not thinkling clearly, the lady had forgotten that "Uncle Sam" is sure to get his share & then some if you win any money. Just glad that this fellow was on his toes.

March 05 2012 at 5:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Now the next scam that targets the elderly that needs to be stopped: Televangelists.

March 05 2012 at 5:12 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
George Jr.

best way for a person to stop that is when someone calls you telling you that you won money and you need to send the taxes in. when ever i get those calls i tell them i will give them money out of the money i won. THEY HANG UP....

March 05 2012 at 4:16 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Publisher's Clearing house doesn't require a purchase to enter but you will never win if you don't. They throw out the entries with no purchase. They were caught doing this some years back.

March 05 2012 at 4:00 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Even as a senior myself, it surprises me that anyone couldn't have already heard of this scam. Or, even more surprisingly, fallen for it.

March 05 2012 at 3:10 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

This is a little off topic though not completely. It is still about getting robbed at the brocery store. I used to live in the Philippines for a few years on business. You always had to go to the grocery store in two's. One to watch the cashier and one to watch the bagger. The cashier would charge you for things you didn't buy while the bagger would put you food under the counter instead of putting it in your bag if you weren't looking.

March 05 2012 at 2:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kevin peterson

"Neither police nor local media have had any luck in speaking with "Deborah Holland" or anyone else answering the number that was provided to the woman as falsely representing Publishers Clearing House"
Really? Is this F Troop? How about getting her phone records and finding out where the call originated from. Yes, "Deborah Holland' gave her real name and number.

March 05 2012 at 2:16 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
gymbo bogymm

If these scammers are caught..They should be required to hard labor in prison...if the victin is a senior citizen...they should be required to gine the anount they tried to scam the victim with..times TEN..then imprisoned for 20 years...However..if i is fomd that the p[erson has done it before...LIFE without parole...put teeth in Satns children..that is who they serve.

March 05 2012 at 1:11 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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