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Une Escroquerie: our daughter got scammed and is returning to France

Un Escroc, Escroquer, Une Escroquerie

: a con (scammer), to cheat, a fraud

L'ECOUTE: Practice your French Listening Skills. To hear the French in today's story, click below. Next, check your comprehension by viewing the vocabulary list (farther down).

Listen to today's vocabulary in the following story. Click here

by Kristi Espinasse

Last Friday the 24th, after a day of celebration, I asked my husband if he'd talked to our daughter lately. "I tried calling earlier, but she didn't answer. Je vais réessayer," he said. Jackie still wasn't answering her mobile phone a moment later when, suddenly, she texted her dad back, and there began a series of cryptic messages....

...something about her being on the phone right now with social security
...something about a drug trafficker who'd gotten hold of her ss number
...something about identity theft
...something about the call being transferred, now, to the police
....something about her being implicated in a scheme if she didn't comply by staying on the phone

SOMETHING was clear amidst all the cryptic messaging: she was being warned not by a government official or the police, she was being manipulated and threatened by un escroc!

"Jackie, hang up. It's a scam! Raccroche! C'est un escroquerie!" Her dad texted back, en vain. The next text message came from me: JACKIE. THIS IS YOUR MOM! PICK UP THE PHONE!!!! When she didn't respond, I began texting Jackie's roommates. I called her boyfriend. Nobody knew a thing, everyone said they had not heard from her in a while.

When Jackie still would not answer the phone a chill ran down my spine. What if someone was with her? What if she'd been kidnapped? Le temps presse!! Jean-Marc get her on that phone!!!!" Lord help us! Lord help us! Lord help us! LORD! LORD! LORD!"

Suddenly, Jean-Marc broke through when our daughter picked up the phone and we learned what had transpired in the last 2 hours:

Glued to her phone, in a state of panic and under specific directions of a scammer--our daughter left her apartment, took an Uber to the bank, withdrew her savings, got into another Uber, drove to a gas station, riffled through the cash to put part of it, with the help of a QR code the "police" gave her over the phone, in an ATM (it turned out to be a bitcoin ATM and it turns out that scammers use to extort money). Our daughter would have lost all her savings if it weren't for her phone battery running low on the long walk to the second dropoff point. That is when Jackie pleaded with the "police" to let her go and charge her phone. The "police" agreed, even suggesting she grab a snack before they called back... And just like that, the whole nightmare was over when she hung up. 

To understand how our daughter could have fallen for this scam, I should mention that last month, while returning to Miami from France, her social security card went missing. She had packed it in France, in her carry-on, and three days after arriving in Miami she realized the folder was nowhere to be found. For the next 4 weeks, she worried herself sick, and finally, her worst fears seemed to be coming true when the phone rang and a so-called government agent introduced herself. When she received the fateful call, she believed every word--and in under two hours, Jackie's hard-earned money was stolen from her. The rollercoaster ride wasn't over, because we now wanted our daughter home immediately. (To our relief, she arrived safely in Marseilles, yesterday.)

Having left France three years ago in pursuit of The American Dream, Jackie fled The Land of The Free, without her money, or a sense of security. What will she do next? She is not sure about anything at the moment, except that it feels good to be home.

As Jackie recovers from this troubling experience, it would help for her to know she is not alone--and that anyone of any age or intelligence can fall for a scam and be a victim of extortion. Have you or has someone you know fallen for a scam--phone, email or otherwise? Please share related stories in the comments section below. Thank you!

un escroc = a scammer, a con man, a cheat
escroquer =
to scam, cheat, swindle
une escroquerie
= a scam, a fraud, a rip-off
je vais réessayer = I'm going to try again
= hang up!
en vain = to no avail
le temps presse! = time is of the essence!
blanchiment d'argent = money laundering

Helpful links:
Don't fall for scam calls and Emails impersonating IRS

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Back in La Ciotat

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety