Fairfield Stop & Shop 'grandparent scam' busters win plaudits
Rose Mauro said that by nature, she's a bit on the suspicious side. "I don't believe anyone," she said.
But on March 21, she got a phone call. The caller identified himself as her grandson, and he told her that he had been jailed in Canada. He needed her to wire $2,800 to, of all places, Mexico City, to get bailed out.
"He said he had five tickets" that needed to be paid, Mauro said. Don't tell any other relatives, the caller warned her. So she turned to her neighbor, Paddi Sullivan, for a ride to the Super Stop & Shop on Kings Highway so she could wire the money via Western Union. Even Sullivan said Mauro was so convinced that it was her grandson that she, too, believed the story and off they went to the grocery store.
There, they met Nadia Guarino behind the customer service desk. As Mauro was asking her to wire the money, Guarino's gut told her something wasn't right.
"She kept telling me she wouldn't put it through," Mauro recalled. "I was getting mad." Guarino won the battle of the wills, and Mauro was saved from being another victim of the so-called "grandparent scam."
"Now, we're friends for life," Guarino told the Fairfield Citizen as they stood outside Police Department headquarters on Reef Road where Guarino, along with two other Stop & Shop employees, were honored for helping to foil the scam.
The "grandparent scam" has been used, with varying success in recent years, by con artists trying to bilk seniors in Fairfield and elsewhere on the pretext of bailing out a "grandchild" claiming to be jailed, often in Canada. The caller pretending to be the grandchild, or their "lawyer," instructs the grandparent to wire the money to phoney address where it is collected by the scammer.
On March 25, just a few days after the attempt to defraud Mauro was foiled, an 89-year-old Fairfield woman came to the same Super Stop & Shop service desk planning to wire $2,700 to bail out two relatives supposedly busted for drunken driving in Ohio. This time, store employees Kim Renzulli and Danielle Capoziello were behind the desk.
"I kind of had a feeling" about another scam attempt, Renzulli said. When the woman told Renzulli how much she needed to send, Renzulli asked the woman to call her grandson. No, he and his companion were in jail and their cellphone was missing, the intended victim told her.
Renzulli insisted she make that call. When the woman did, her grandson answered. He was home in bed, asleep. "It happens too much," Renzulli said of the scam attempt. "I was just doing my job. We just want to look out for the public, we want to help everyone."
Capoziello was unable to attend Tuesday's small recognition ceremony, but Chris Kemp, customer service manager for the store, said Stop & Shop management is proud of all three. He said the clerks receive training about fraud, including yearly seminars with Western Union, "but what they did was above and beyond."
Their employees, Kemp said, enjoy serving the community. "Stop & Shop's pledge is to make a difference in our customers' lives every day."
Police Chief Gary MacNamara said the department can't make Fairfield a safer town without help from the community. "And these employees are a great example of that," he said, adding their actions are "rare and unique."
"It's the small actions that make a big difference," MacNamara said.