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Hillsborough detectives seek Uber’s help in solving a big bucks elderly scam — again

A woman lost $700,000 and a man $10,000 in the classic “grandparent scam.”
Hillsborough detectives say in two recent cases, scammers got elderly residents to pay them thousands of dollars, convincing the victims that their grandchildren were in trouble and needed money. One woman lost $700,000 - most of her life savings. Now investigators are hoping information from Uber, which was used in both schemes, will help them track down the perpetrators.
Hillsborough detectives say in two recent cases, scammers got elderly residents to pay them thousands of dollars, convincing the victims that their grandchildren were in trouble and needed money. One woman lost $700,000 - most of her life savings. Now investigators are hoping information from Uber, which was used in both schemes, will help them track down the perpetrators. [ ELISE AMENDOLA | AP ]
Published Dec. 10, 2021

TAMPA — Once again, Hillsborough County detectives are looking for help from Uber in solving a scam that bilked big money ― in one case, $700,000 — from elderly grandparents.

In the latest con, a 75-year-old North Tampa man was contacted by someone claiming to be an attorney representing his granddaughter who was in legal trouble, according to court records.

In a scenario familiar to investigators called the “grandparent scam,” the man was convinced to withdraw $10,000 on May 11 to bail the granddaughter out of jail. He originally was instructed to go to a bail bonds business, but then was told someone would come for the money via Uber. A silver Toyota with an Uber plate on the front dashboard picked up the cash, according to a search warrant.

Uber confirmed a trip to the man’s address, according to court records. The search warrant, signed by a Hillsborough judge, seeks further information about who purchased the ride and where the money traveled.

“Uber strictly prohibits the use of the Uber app to commit crimes and regularly works with law enforcement to assist with investigations,” said an Uber spokeswoman via email to the Tampa Bay Times. “We have been working with the Hillsborough County Sheriff on this case in accordance with our Law Enforcement Guidelines.”

According to those guidelines, Uber maintains user data as described in its privacy notice and terms of use provided to customers, and discloses user data to law enforcement “in accordance with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.”

In two recent cases of elderly exploitation, detectives say scammers used Uber. Now investigators hope Uber's records will provide clues. [AP]
In two recent cases of elderly exploitation, detectives say scammers used Uber. Now investigators hope Uber's records will provide clues. [AP]

It isn’t the first time local detectives turned to Uber to try to solve a grandparent scam.

In October, the Times reported the case of Anna Nunn, 82, who lives in the suburbs outside of Tampa and lost $700,000 ― much of her life savings — this summer, according to a lawsuit.

A woman who called pretending to be Nunn’s granddaughter and a man using the name of a local lawyer convinced her to make 13 withdrawals from branches of BB&T bank.

The story of the granddaughter’s legal woes got more elaborate, according to Nunn’s attorney, and ended when she ran out of money.

Hillsborough detectives have sought Uber records about pickups at Nunn’s home when she was giving bricks of cash to couriers as instructed by the scammers. Investigators said they wanted the Uber account holder’s name and credit card information and pick-up and drop-off locations.

Nunn is suing the bank, now Truist, alleging negligence for allowing her to continue making unusual withdrawals even after red flags were raised. After the Times reports, her case made national and international news.

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