PORTLAND, Ore. - A 79-year-old Portland woman said two men tricked her into thinking they were cable workers and tried to steal $2,500 cash. Luckily, a quick-thinking check-cashing-business clerk saved the day.
The woman asked us to call her "Mrs. B." for this story.
She said the first man drove up in a grey sedan with the word "Comcast" on the side. He told her there was a power problem with her cable connection and there could be a power outage or something even worse, she said.
"There's an urgency to it," said her son, Mark Gilmore, about the fake cable worker's tactic.
Mrs. B. said the man opened her screen door, walked inside her house and started inspecting her cable outlets. She said another man, driving a second grey sedan with the word "Comcast" on the side, soon joined him.
"I think it was a thing of trusting," said Gilmore.
Mrs. B. said the men told her they had to rent equipment to repair her cable problem and she had to pay for it.
"It was two pieces that were expensive and it was going to cost $2,500 for the devices they needed to rent," said Gilmore.
One of the men accompanied Mrs. B. to the Check Cash - Western Union business at SE 82nd & Powell, after she could not get the $2,500 cash from an ATM machine, she said.
Surveillance video showed Mrs. B. and the man going inside the business and approaching the window.
Irina Vecherkina was the worker behind the glass.
"She's just sliding me her check and she says, 'I need cash, I need cash,'" said Vecherkina.
Vecherkina said Mrs. B. did not act like the typical customer cashing a check for thousands of dollars.
"Usually, people are excited because they're either buying a car or making big purchase," said Vecherkina. "She was very not comfortable with the gentleman. She's persistent to do it, but she doesn't want to."
Vecherkina also noticed that Mrs. B. appeared to be keeping her distance from the man who accompanied her.
"I asked her what the purpose was, and she said for Comcast to fix two outlets," said Vecherkina.
Vecherkina said she did not believe a cable repair would cost $2,500 and knew that the cable company would bill a customer's account, not accompany a customer to a check-cashing place to get cash.
She said she told Mrs. B. not to do it, but Mrs. B. insisted, saying she needed to make sure her cable service was working properly.
Vecherkina said she asked the man for ID, and he left the store, supposedly to get his ID, but never returned to the business.
Vecherkina said she is glad that Mrs. B. is okay.
"We just want to make sure that innocent people don't get defrauded. It shouldn't happen to anybody," said Vecherkina.
Both Mrs.B and her son said they were grateful for the worker's alertness.
"This could have turned out really badly," said Gilmore.
A Comcast spokesperson said real Comcast techs will drive official Comcast trucks or vans, which are large enough to hold their equipment, with Comcast logos on them, and the workers will not ask for cash or accompany people to banks or check-cashing places. They will also have branded Comcast badges with their pictures on them, she said.