Riedel, 80, received a call on his cell phone on March 4 at approximately 9:30 a.m. A female voice on the phone claimed to be Kelsey, saying that she had been arrested in Mexico City and needed bail money for release. No specifics were given as to why or what for the arrest was supposedly made. Riedel’s caller identification on his cell phone showed the incoming phone number to be 760-705-8888. “760” is the area code for certain cities within San Bernardino County in California.
“The lady’s voice on the phone didn’t sound like my granddaughter,” recalled Riedel of the incident.
The Kelsey impersonator then put a man on the phone who gave his name as “Rick Farley” and claimed to be representative of the American Embassy in Mexico City. “Rick” claimed that the bail amount needed was in the amount of $977 plus $20 to be immediately wirelessly transferred through Western Union. “Rick” told Riedel that the embassy’s phone number was 514-649-7798. “514” is actually an area code for Quebec, Canada.
An alarmed Riedel told “Rick” that he would look into it and immediately called the Karnes County Sheriff’s Department to report the incident. Riedel also contacted family members in order to confirm the whereabouts and status of his granddaughter. Kelsey, a young adult and university student in San Antonio, was located within 45 minutes and confirmed safe and sound attending classes that morning in San Antonio.
“We were scared at first, until we found out that Kelsey was safe and in school,” said Carolyn Hernandez, Riedel’s daughter and Kelsey’s aunt.
After the initial call, “Rick” called Riedel back eight times in quick succession to see if he had sent the money. Riedel never sent any money and when authorities tried to call back the numbers the scammers had given, the numbers were disconnected. Karnes County Sheriff’s Department officials are reviewing the case.
Riedel’s family thinks that Riedel might have been targeted because of his age, due to senior citizens being less likely to have things such as cell phones (the scammers may have been hoping for a land line phone when calling Riedel) and internet access, thus making them easier targets due to less information access and awareness of scams.
The family also believes the scammers may have gleaned personal information (address, phone numbers, relatives, etc.) from the internet. Certain websites such as Spokeo and MyLife can have personal information made completely public for all to see.
Authorities recommend that anyone receiving a similar call should immediately contact authorities and never send money. A tell-tale sign of a scam is a person whose identity is unconfirmed requesting or demanding (for whatever reason) for money to be sent via wireless transfer.