‘It’s sickening’: Florida seniors saved from money-stealing scam thanks to new technology

Scam victims now have a new tool helping crack down on scammers and get people their money back. 

A recent scam happened in Micco, Florida, and started with a phone call. An elderly couple in their late 80s and early 90s was told a family member was in trouble and needed money, so they fell for this common scam – often referred to this as the "grandparents scam." The couple ended up sending what could have been their life savings to the scammer. 

Most stories like this end with the money gone, but now with new technology created by Uber engineers, these victims have a chance at fighting back. "We just turned the alert on, and one popped up," said Vince Lisi who’s the Head of Global Security and Investigations for Uber.

Lisi’s team has been tracking these scams for a while now where a scammer will use ride-share services to send a driver and pick up the money the victim’s been tricked into handing over. Uber engineers just created a new system to track suspicious rides that could be scams, and the first one the technology found happened in Brevard County.

"It’s sickening what they’re doing," Lisi added. "If we’re able to support law enforcement and stop it from happening or even help law enforcement solve these crimes, that’s what we’re going to do."

How does Uber intercept these scams? The company won’t reveal the exact equation so as not to tip off the scammers, but it’s a combination of how the ride was requested, where it’s going, the fact that it’s not for driving people but a package, and more that set-off alarm bells in this situation.

In this case, the Uber driver got a call while he was in the car mid-delivery with the package and was told to stop immediately and drive straight to the nearest police station. "In this case, we were successful in stopping that money drop and actually getting that money back to the victims," said Tod Goodyear, the public information officer for the Brevard County Sheriff's Office.

By intercepting the scam so early on, deputies did get the couple’s money back. "With it happening on the front end and the ride-share company contacting us on the front end, it’s going to really make it a lot easier for us to stop the money from actually getting to the bad guy," Goodyear concluded.

While there still isn’t an arrest in this specific scam case, deputies are still investigating and have more to go off of since they learned of the crime so early.