FALLON, NV - The phone rang in Ann and Chuck Warren's Fallon home last week.
The voice on the other end of the call sounded like 25 year old Matthew Warren and it told a frightening, but believable story.
A quick, unplanned trip to Spain for a friend's wedding had ended with a automobile accident and a trip to jail. He had driven a car into a telephone pole.
The judge wanted damages for the pole. He was in trouble, needed money to pay the damages and he was embarrassed.
"he said 'they want $2,400 grandma,'" says Ann Warren. "I know it's an awful lot of money but can you please send it and don't tell anybody."
So she withdrew $24 hundred dollars from her personal account and went to the Western Union office in Fallon. She says she didn't tell them the whole story, still they warned her it could be a scam.
"And I said it was my grandson's voice. I'm not going to deny my grandson. I'm going to help him."
The money was sent. Then came another call. This time it was the insurance company refusing to pay for damages to the car. She sent more money.
Then another call. They were holding him at the airport because of his hospital bills. More money was needed.
Again the voice was familiar, sounding ever more desperate. The story, however, was unraveling.
He had called himself Matt something the real Matthew, never does. Still, that voice sure sounded like her grandson.
"I started thinking 'I don't know can they do this because I was talking with my grandson, but there's something getting kind of fishy here."
Although she had kept her promise not to tell anyone, she did call Matthew's father asking if he'd heard from his son.
"Is there something going on?" he asked.
Grandma kept her promise and played dumb.
Suspicious, he made some calls of his own and as she was about to send another $2-thousand dollars. She got a call.
"He said 'Mom, Matthew's at work in San Francisco. You can call him if you want.'"
"I said 'I've been sending money to him in Barcelona.' He says 'You've been scammed.'"
It's believed the calls were coming from outside the U-S, possibly Canada or Mexico, where these con artists are often based. It's also believed they had visited Matthew's Facebook page where they found personal information that helped their ruse and a brief video gave them a sample of his voice and mannerisms, all they needed to scam a concerned grandparent.
"They're less than human. They take advantage of the most vulnerable population there is."
Authorities say the "grandparents scam" is all-too-common. In fact, they say it often goes unreported, its victims too embarrassed to report it.
And, they say, there's little American law enforcement can do about it. The most effective response may be its victims coming forward and warning others, just as Ann Warren is doing.
"If you get a call from your grandchild and you're hearing their voice and they're not right across town from you," advises Ann Warren, "either give them a secret word to identify, something only you and they know or call them back."