Attempted scammer gets more than he bargained for

Posted at 5:20 PM, Apr 09, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY -- A potential scammer got quite a shock when the senior citizen he targeted happened to have a daughter who heads the Utah Department of Commerce, and Fox 13 was there to capture the conversation.

In this kind of scam it is typical for the scammers to contact elderly people and tell them a fake story about a family member in trouble. They go on to say the family member needs cash wired to a specific outlet to avoid legal problems. Those victimized later learn that they are out thousands of dollars, and their relative is fine.

That was the setup in a scam aimed at 88-year-old Sal Giani, but things didn’t go according to plan. Giani got a call on Tuesday morning, and the person on the phone told him his grandson was in trouble.

“[He said] that he was in jail, that we needed bail money, and he gave me directions what to do,” he said.

The caller said he was an attorney named Paul David. The call came from a Canadian number with a 438 area code. David told Giani his grandson had been arrested for drunken driving in Salt Lake City. He told the man he would need to wire $1,800 to an international bail bondsman.

The scammer made it seem like time was of the essence.

“What he said was, ‘You get the cash, and I will call you back in an hour and a half,’” Giani said.

Giani said he was about to go to the bank and then to Wal-Mart to complete the transfer, but he said his intuition told him it might be a scam. In light of that, he decided to call his daughter, Francine Giani. Francine Giani happens to be the director for the Utah Department of Commerce.

Sal Giani called his daughter, and she came right over. She said she wanted to be there when the man called back. Sal Giani gave the phone to his daughter when the man called back, and she strung the caller along for some time.

The full video and transcript of the call is available here.

She eventually revealed herself to the man, saying: “Let me just tell you Paul—my name is Francine, and I actually work for the state of Utah, and I know this is a scam, and I don’t want you to call my father anymore is that okay?” At that point the man hung up. “And that's how these end, with a hang up,” Francine Giani said after the call.

The Giani family wants to warn others about these scams, especially since they tend to target the elderly.

“The notice has to be to seniors: If you get a call like that, please contact another family member to confirm what it is you are hearing,” Francine Giani said.