A team of apparent scam artists picked the wrong potential target this week when they tried to cheat Jackie Jacobson out of $500.
The group or individual didn’t get the money, but they did get the hackles up of Jacobson, a 90-year-old Billings resident.
“I told the man (over the telephone) that they got the wrong person if they thought they could get one over on me,” she said. “They thought they had a dummy on the line, but they didn’t. I know what is going on in the world.”
On Wednesday, Jacobson got a call from someone with a foreign accent — it sounded like someone from India, she said — informing her she’d won a new car from Publisher’s Clearing House. It’s a company she’s been dealing with for years, she said, having purchased numerous subscriptions and sending in postcards for a chance at the company’s famous give-aways.
The caller said that her new automobile, a Mercedes Benz, would be delivered Thursday morning. He also shared what Jacobson considers a lot of personal information about her, including her address and telephone number. In addition, he used names associated with the famous giveaway, names Jacobson said she’s familiar with.
“I didn’t think it could be,” she said about her apparent good fortune, “but in the back of your mind you think miracles happen. He made it sound so legitimate.”
“I’ve got an old car, a 2000 Buick,” she added. “I would have appreciated a new Mercedes.”
But Jacobson was nonetheless suspicious as well, and so she called on family and friends to help her. Her daughter-in-law, Marcia Berg of Billings, came over Thursday morning for the promised automobile delivery. Jacobson asked a neighbor to also keep an eye out, and he obliged by working in his garage — with the door open — all morning.
On automobile delivery day, Jacobson received another telephone call, from the same man who’d called her the day before. There was a hang-up in customs, he told her, but if she sent $500 right away, that would clear up the problem and speed the delivery of the new automobile.
“I thought, ‘Customs? The Publisher’s Clearing House is a U.S. concern,’” she said. “It’s a U.S. business that doesn’t have to go through customs. I told him, ‘That’s a bunch of bologna.’ I said, ‘I don’t have $500, and if I did I wouldn’t be giving it to you.’”
Jacobson then handed the telephone to Berg, “and he tried to bully her, too. He kept saying, ‘What is your name?’ and she said, ‘You don’t need to know my name — you just need to know that she isn’t alone.’”
“I was kind of shook up,” she said. “I wondered, ‘What am I going to do if these men show up?’”
They didn’t, of course. Jacobson followed up Thursday’s upsetting telephone call with calls of her own — to the Billings Police Department and to state fraud regulators.
Billings Police Sgt. Justin Jagers said he hasn’t heard of this particular attempted scam.
Police provided Jacobson a comforting presence on Thursday, she said, patrolling her neighborhood at least three times following the episode.
Jacobson said she came forward with her story as a public service to prevent older residents in the Billings area from being cheated.
“I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I went through,” she said.