The phone rings, and a woman in her early 80s picks up. After all, it’s a long-distance number — this could be important. On the other end is a man claiming her granddaughter/son-in-law/golden retriever has been (a) injured in a car accident and hospitalized (b) imprisoned in a Tijuana jail or (c) dog-napped and held for ransom.

How can she help? She can just wire the caller money via Western Union — or even send the number of a paid-up gift card — and they’ll take care of the rest. 

Laid out this way, it seems obvious the victim of this scam will never see that money again, and that no one was ever in danger. But in the moment, a person who gets…

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