A New York grandmother is being recognized for outsmarting a suspected scammer – and it was all captured on video.
Jean Ebbert, a retired 911 dispatcher, received an odd phone call Thursday from a man claiming to be her grandson, explaining that he had been arrested and needed $8,000 to make bail. There was just one problem. She doesn't have any grown male grandchildren.
Ebbert received two more telephone calls, one from a man pretending to be a court officer and the other from someone posing as an attorney.
"Five minutes later, someone calls me back. He's a court officer and he asks me for my grandson's name, so I'm, 'Hmm ... I have to make up a name.' So, I took the first name of my son-in-law, who I thought was the comedian pulling this thing, Emmanuel. And I take the last name of my other son-in-law, Muriel, who's a corrections officer," Ebbert explained.
"So, I make up a name and I give it to him, and he says to me, 'Hold on.' About five minutes later he comes back, (and says) 'I see him in the system,'" she recalled. "I just made up this name. He sees him in the system? So, I'm playing along, and he says to me, 'We're trying to get him a lawyer and we'll have the lawyer call you back.' We hang up again. I must have talked between 15 and 20 times with these guys."
The 73-year-old said she knew something wasn't right and notified the Nassau County Police Department.
"Once I knew that he knew where I was, I agreed with my daughter: time to call just to be safe," Ebbert pointed out.
Shortly after authorities arrived at Ebbert's home, a man showed up, ready to collect the cash.
"So, he rings my doorbell. I answer the door, the cops are like right there, ready to pounce, you know, but I still have to go to the door," she noted. "I don't open it too far. I keep my hands, I keep my eyes on his hands. He had his cell phone in one hand, and he was waiting for the envelope, so I didn't want him to have his hands in his pockets or anything like that."
"So, I could see his hands, I talked to him. I read him the numbers, he showed me the receipt. I gave him the envelope and then I close the door. He turned around to walk down the steps and I backed out of the way, and they (police) opened the door and went out and got him."
WATCH the incident unfold in the video below:
Ebbert recalled the important role that her background played during the ordeal, which ultimately helped nab the suspect.
"When you are the dispatcher and you're sending the police, and things start to go down, there's a pursuit or something, anything happens ... you are the voice, the calm voice in all the chaos and you have to stay calm. And, if you can't stay calm, you can't do that job," Ebbert said. "So that helped. And just the fact that I could make up the story as I went, you know? Fast thinking, being able to multitask. Everybody who works at 911 has to be able to do 10 things at one time."
Police arrested 28-year-old Joshua Estrella and charged him with attempted grand larceny in the third degree.
In the end, Ebbert says she is just grateful that no one got hurt.
And she is warning others not to dismiss the trickiness of criminals or get caught up in their scams.
"Don't underestimate what these people can do when they're trying to scam you," Ebbert noted. "I can see now how people could fall for this. I've heard from people all over the country who say, 'My mother fell for this twice. Five years apart, she fell for this again.' So, I can understand they are too good, and they know too much about you and it scares me."
She warns it's important to stay alert and protect your identity online by not oversharing information.