When Annie Stevenson-King answered a call from an unknown local number, she thought it was an old family friend calling to check on her. She had just been released from the hospital.
"And they say, 'You don't know who this is?' So I guess, 'Jack?" she recalled.
The caller explained he was in jail and in desperate need of help.
"I said, 'The most I can help you with is maybe $1,000,'" Stevenson-King said.
She immediately walked to her bank and withdrew cash. The person she believed to be Jack, whose name has been changed for this story, called her back within the hour to set up a meeting place. Jack wouldn't be there, of course — he was in jail. Instead, he sent his cousin in a black car.
As Stevenson-King approached the determined meeting location, the car was within sight around Cortelyou Road and East 17th Street.
"That's when the Lord spoke to me," she said. "I got the sense that I was about to do something that I would regret."
She decided to document the exchange. Using her cellphone, she snapped a photo of the car's license plate, and when the person she thought was Jack's cousin couldn't present identification, she snapped a photo of his face too.
"He told the cab driver, 'Pull off! Pull off! Pull off!'" she explained.
The car rushed off, leaving her standing by the street with cash still in her purse. She was nearly the victim of a phone imposter scam.
"You know, there's a new imposter scam practically born every minute," said Reggie Nance, the New York state associate director for AARP New York.
An imposter scam happens when someone or something contacts a target, asking or demanding money while pretending to be someone or something they're not, like the IRS, a relative, or friend.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), imposter scams were the leading type of fraud reported in 2017. Around $328 million were lost due to this type of fraud that year.
For Stevenson-King, the voice over the phone was so convincing that even her knowledge about scams, developed through 12 years as a volunteer with the AARP, didn't kick in until it was almost too late.
"What happens with these scammers is that they catch us at our most vulnerable moments," Nance explained.
Nance advises AARP members that they should never offer information to a caller, including your own name or anyone else's, like a grandchild or friend. He also said people should never guess who is calling them. Instead, force them to identify themselves. And, finally, do not share credit or debit card information.
"If you're feeling suspicious, the best thing to do is to hang up right away," Nance said. "If you think it is a friend or family member, return the call and verify their identity."