CLARISSA - An 83-year-old woman sat in her central Todd County Care Center apartment in Clarissa on a recent Wednesday morning in telling how she was scammed out of nearly $6,000.
The woman, Marjorie Axum, didn't think she'd ever be fooled by a scam artist. She said how would anyone know that she was a senior citizen and had grandchildren in such a small town that had a population of 609? She said she had been a leader all her life and was an English school teacher for many years.
Marjorie thought she was too smart to be scammed.
But on Jan. 15, it happened. Marjorie was scammed.
She received a call that morning and the caller said, "Hi, Grandma. I'm one of your grandsons. Can you guess which one?" Marjorie guessed her oldest grandson, Brock, who lives in Colorado. Marjorie said the caller told her she was right. He said he and his friends were fishing in Canada and that a game warden arrested him for poaching and he needed $3,000 right now.
Marjorie Axum, 83, Clarissa, lost nearly $6,000 to a scam artist posing as her grandson on the telephone. Brainerd Dispatch/Jennifer Stockinger
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"I needed to help my grandson," said Marjorie. "I was so believing in every word he said to me. I never doubted once that he was my grandson. It never even dawned on me to ask him why he didn't call his mother."
Marjorie said the caller told her to go to the Wal-Mart in Wadena and send the money. He gave her specific details on how to do the transaction. Marjorie can't drive so she had a friend drive her to the store. Marjorie said the clerks who helped her at the store asked her if she was sure she wanted to send the money.
"I told them of course, I have too. It's for my grandson," she said. "I need to help him."
Marjorie sent $3,000 successfully and also paid $50 for the transaction.
The next day the scam artist called again and told her he needed another $2,750 for lawyer fees. Marjorie still believed that the caller was her grandson so she sent the money.
Marjorie said when she got home the caller thanked her for sending the money and said, "I'll pay you the minute I get home." Marjorie said he joked that he was never going to go fishing in Canada ever again and she said she never will either.
Marjorie later received a call from the Canada police and found out that it was a scam. She contacted the Todd County Sheriff's office, which investigated. Officers told her that the money was gone and that they more than likely wouldn't be able to prosecute because they have no information on how to catch the scam artist.
"I could not believe it when I found out I was scammed," said Marjorie. "I believed I was helping my grandson up to the moment the police contacted me. It felt so wonderful that my grandson came to me for help.
"I feel so dumb that I fell for something like that. Why didn't I call my grandson in Colorado to see if he'd answer the phone. Why didn't I call his mother? Why didn't I listen to those clerks at Wal-Mart?"
In the past two months, Marjorie has been telling her story to everyone she knows and to area newspapers to help others so they don't fall in the same trap she did. Since then she has helped at least a dozen people, who have called her and said they'd received that same frightening phone call.
"I feel that this experience happen for a reason and my purpose now is to warn others," she said.
Marjorie is more skeptical now when she answers the phone and she plans to be more careful in the future so she doesn't become victim of another scam.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.
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