Money stock

Personal finances and cash stock art.

Doug Ross, The Times

PORTER — As a taxi driver, Tonya Gonzales has likely heard it all.

But when the driver/dispatcher for 219 Taxi heard one of her prospective fares talking to what appeared to be scam artists, she felt she had to intercede.

On Monday, Gonzales was sent to pick up a Porter woman on her way to the doctor's office. When Gonzalez got to the home, she called the woman on her cellphone and could hear the woman talking to someone else on a landline. 

"I could hear her talk to someone on the phone, and she was repeating instructions. I could tell she was an older lady," Gonzales recalled.

Those instructions apparently were to go to a local bank, withdraw $5,000 and mail the money to pay taxes on lottery winnings.

Gonzales said she immediately knew someone was attempting to scam the woman. Not knowing if the woman would believe her, Gonzales called Porter police, who sent an officer.

Gonzales and the officer warned the woman of the scam and prevented her from sending the money.

"If it was my grandma or my mom, I would hope someone would help her," she said, adding it isn't the first time she's overheard someone attempting to scam a fare over the phone. Earlier this year, it was a young, apparently disabled, young man who was panicked because someone on the other line was telling him he had to pay money or face being arrested.

Gonzales is being praised by the Porter Police Department.

"It goes without saying that Tonya Gonzales, of the 219 Taxi company, deserves praise for her recognition of this situation and contacting the police department for assistance. Her actions prevented this resident from being another victim of financial fraud," Capt. John Lane said in a written statement.

Lane also used the incident to warn residents of continued scams, which usually prey on older residents.

"Residents please be aware, when a phone call is received and you have won money but need to pay duties or taxes on the winnings in advance, you are being scammed," Lane said.

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Joyce has been a staff writer for The Times for more than 20 years. She is the municipal and education reporter for Porter County. She is an amateur genealogist and writes a blog, Remember your Roots, appearing online each Thursday.