Steve and Sandra looked at each other. The young lady at the store eyed them suspiciously. Their eyes met and both could tell that the other was wondering the same thing.
It sometimes felt like the world they knew had been replaced by one that had left them behind. It was hard to know who to believe and if anyone could be trusted.
Steven and Sandra Banner had met over forty years ago. There were times when neither could quite believe how long their life together had lasted.
Remarkably, with Steven aged 73 and Sandra aged 70, the couple were coming up on their fiftieth wedding anniversary. As Steve stared across the back porch at his wife, the look on her face saddened him.
Steve could still picture the day he met her. She had been full of life. Her beauty was astounding to him. From the moment he laid eyes on her more than half a century ago, Steve had known that Sandra was the woman he wanted to spend forever with.
As he stared at her face now, age had certainly left its mark. He didn’t mind that she had lost her youthful exuberance over the decades. It was something else that troubled him.
After having five kids and over a dozen grandchildren together, the couple had always felt blessed for the life they shared. Steve had always imagined that Sandra would outlive him. He was older after all.
Yet, it was Sandra who seemed to grow tired quicker, was beginning to struggle to walk, and recently had become a lot more forgetful. Of the two, Steve worried that his wife was aging faster than him.
When Sandra’s phone rang, Steve thought that it was one of the kids or grandchildren at first. It wasn’t uncommon for one of them to call and check on the old couple. It was usually their youngest grandson, Brandon.
After listening to the voice on the other end for a while, Steve saw Sandra’s eyes widen with shock and her expression turned grim. It was clear that something wasn’t right.
Sandra’s voice actually shook as she mumbled responses back at the mysterious caller. By the time she ended the call, her voice was trembling with fear. Steve questioned her immediately as she hung up.
“Who was that? Are you okay? What’s going on?” He peppered her with questions, anxious to know what was going on. Sandra’s response was curt but full of concern. “It’s Brandon. He’s in trouble,” she replied.
As Sandra elaborated, Steve and her worst fears were confirmed. The call had been from a man who identified himself as a policeman from the local Hanover County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia.
It seems that their youngest grandson, Brandon, had been arrested. This information was distressing enough, but the caller’s request made it more frightening.
The cop that had called Sandra had provided enough details about Brandon to let her know that he definitely knew Brandon’s age, where he lived, and his physical description.
In a gruff and aggressive voice, he had made a request. According to the caller, Brandon was in huge trouble and if they wanted to save him, they would have to “pay” for his release.
The caller demanded they go to their local Target store, purchase $4000 in gift cards, and await the next call. After discussing it, at first, the couple thought of calling for help.
However, they both agreed that they had no idea what kind of cops they were dealing with. Since neither wanted to further endanger their grandson’s safety. Without any other choice, the elderly couple set off to the store.
The local Target store was busy. The couple was nervous as they approached the front row of the cashier lines. The cashier who served them was a young man named Matthew.
After hearing their request, he immediately eyed them both suspiciously. When Matthew asked the couple to accompany him for a talk with his manager, Steve and Sandra began to panic.
They were introduced to a young lady named Mariah. Mariah questioned them about their request and explained that while purchasing gift cards was very common, spending $4000.00 on such cards wasn’t normal at all.
The couple initially tried to be nonchalant but eventually broke down and explained their predicament. Expecting to be in trouble, they were shocked when Mariah actually offered to help them.
Mariah listened intently to their story. When they were done, she explained that they were actually victims of a scam. Target employees had recently received memos regarding this exact scam as it had been taking place more frequently at their stores.
For the first time, Steven and Sandra had to contemplate the truth. The person who called them was not a policeman. However, this left them with another burning question.
After hearing out Mariah, the Banners still could not understand one thing. If the mysterious caller wasn’t a real cop, how did he know so much about their grandson?
Feeling bad for the couple, Mariah sat them down and showed them exactly how such a thing was likely. When she was done, the couple actually felt disgusted and violated by the explanation.
Mariah explained it was actually easy to gather information about a person these days. After asking for Brandon’s full name, she pulled up tons of info on their grandson within seconds.
From his social media accounts alone, Mariah was able to learn so much. In a matter of seconds, she knew when Brandon’s birthday was, what his job was, where he lived, what car he drove, and most importantly, where he was at that exact moment.
Although they were now relieved to know that Brandon was actually safe, they were deeply unsettled. Mariah helped them lay a complaint with the police. The couple became a lot more aware of just how much people expose themselves online by making their private lives public.
Learning from the lesson, they now screen calls a lot more thoroughly and regularly ensure that their grandkids’ social media accounts have appropriate privacy settings.