Wednesday, January 21, 2009

$30,000 - Immigration stopped us and I fainted!

My cousin (whom I call my aunt because she is much older than I) shared this story with my parents who of course, in turn shared it with us.

The phone rings at my "aunt's" house in Mexico-its 6pm. My cousin Josue (Josh) picks up the phone and listens to a man tell him something to the effect "What? You don't care to remember family anymore?" and Josue says, "Benjamin, is that you?" The man answers in the affirmative and asks who he's speaking to and my cousin says "its Josue" then the man asks how hes doing and asks "Is you mom there?" So Josue hands the phone over to my aunt and tells her its Ben (which they all call him Benjamin, not Ben-its a Spanish thing).

Aunt: Hi there Benjamin, son, how are you? Whats this that you're calling? Is everything OK?
Man: Of course Auntie, everything is fine. I'm calling to tell you that we're arriving tomorrow! But its a surprise! You can't tell anyone because its a huge surprise!
Aunt: (she gets extremely excited and can't wait to see us and the boys) Oh my goodness, so I can't even tell Gaby (her daughter)?
Man: No, not even Gaby... So what would you like me to bring you?
Aunt: Nothing,nothing! It will be enough to have you here in our presence. We can't wait to see you!
Man: Well, what about Josue? Ask him if he wants anything.

My aunt asks and Josue says he'd like some chocolates filled with sweets. She tells the man.

Man: Will you go pick me up at the airport tomorrow?
Aunt: Of course!! Of course!! So where are you staying?
Man: Well, we were hoping we'd be able to stay with you! You have such a hospitable house.
Aunt: Oh yes, of course you can stay with us! We wouldn't want it any other way!
Man: OK, Auntie, I will call you tomorrow with more details about our arrival and such. Don't forget its a surprise!

They hang up. Later that evening my aunt and my mom have a long telephone conversation and my aunt mentions nothing about this surprise. That same evening my aunt starts to stress out making sure the house is ready for us. She starts to clean massively (since obviously she wasn't expecting company!) and even starts rearranging furniture in the bedrooms. Beds get moved from one room to another so that we can stay in the nicest room and with the biggest bed, since we'll have the boys with us. Desserts get made and even plans for a fancy dinner for the next evening since we'll be there. She tells her husband to clean the car out because they are going to go to the airport the next day to pick someone up. He asks "who?" and she says "its a surprise! I can't tell you!"

The next morning her phone rings and its the man again.

Man: Auntie! I need your help! Immigration has stopped us! I have all these presents that I'm bringing for everyone and some money, too, and they've stopped me because of it. Listen, here's the lawyer that's helping us out. he'll tell you everything.

So the lawyer tells my aunt that we were stopped because we were trying to bring in $30,000 US Dollars and we hadn't declared it or something like that and that we had a bunch of gifts we were bringing for them-perfumes, jewelery, clothing, toys...

What the lawyer needed my aunt to do was deposit 32,000 Pesos (which is like $3200 US Dollars) into a bank account. He gave her the bank account number and said that it would cover the fine and Ben would be released. My aunt spoke to the Man again and tells him that she's going to have to make some calls to see if a friend can lend her the money. The man tells her that hes thankful and that it won't be a big deal because he'll pay her right back when he gets there since he has money (but its been confiscated and paying the fine would release him and his money and his gifts).

My aunt calls her daughter Gaby and tells her the story asking if she can offer any money. Gaby says "anything for Benjamin, of course!" This happens with another cousin of mine and then my Aunt takes money that is set aside for a huge wedding/anniversary party they are having next month and tells her husband, "OK! lets go to the bank right now...hurry up, lets go!" My cousin Josue isn't liking the smell of the situation and tells his mom that she needs to call my parents to make sure this isn't all a scam. My aunt tells him that she cant because Ben told her it was a surprise and she couldn't tell anyone! Of course he persists and she calls my parents house.

Aunt: Hi Will (my dad) where is Benjamin?
Dad: At home, at work. Why?
Aunt: Are you sure?
Dad: Yes, why?

She tells him the story and he's like, "Woman, call the cops! Its a scam!"
She asks my dad to please call me and make sure that Ben isn't in Mexico (lol)

My dad calls me and asks where Ben is and I tell him he's at work. He then tells me the story(which was not the whole story, because my aunt hadn't been very detailed with him) and I get creeped out. I call Ben and he gets creeped out, too. My dad calls my aunt back to let her know we're fine and at home. While he's on the phone with her, my aunt's cell phone rings. Its the Man (he had asked for her cell number). My aunt puts the phones on Speakerphone so my dad can hear whats going on.

Man: Auntie, why did you trick me? You said you would pay the money.
Aunt: Oh son, its just that the woman who was going to lend me the money didn't have it and I don't have the money so I can't pay it. I'm sorry. Why don't you just leave half the stuff-we don't need the presents anyway we just want you safe. Is your wife there with you?
Man: Yes, but she fainted! The stress is too much for her and she fainted!

My aunt then tells him again to leave half the stuff and that she will see him soon, when he's released.
My dad is laughing saying "That sounds nothing like Ben!"
She says she swears it sounded like him and my mom of course dad talks to us regularly, my aunt however does not! So of course, the excitement and nervousness blurred her judgement.

My mom gets home from work that afternoon and hears all about it. She then calls my aunt and gets the full story. My aunt reported it to like a scam hotline of some sort, where you can remain anonymous. She gave them the account number and they said they had already received scam reports for that account number.

Its bizarre. I feel somewhat guilty that "we" caused such grief and stress to my family. I feel bad that they had to make so many changes to the house and that they stressed over some major cleaning. I also feel embarrassed that she had to call around and pool the money needed to bail us out-even though it wasn't us at all!

This was yesterday. And even today I am still very grateful to my Heavenly Father that they didn't fall for the scam and that they aren't out of so much money! He hears our prayers when we ask him to bless our family wherever they may be, even if our family is a bit naive and gullible. lol


Amy E said...

Wow...I'm sure that did give you the creeps. I'm glad they caught on before it was too late!!

Ed said...

That is a most bizarre story. I'm certain that I'd still be wondering how the man knew to identify himself as Benjamin. I'm glad that your family learned that it was a trick before they lost that money.

Anna said...

I'm with Eddie. I'd totally wonder how he knew to identify himself as Benjamin. Yikes!