It wasn't until it was too late that she realized she had been scammed. It turns out the person calling her for help wasn't her grandson at all. And by the time she realized what had happened, her money was gone.
This Katy grandma is no push over, she knows there are con artists out there. But she said there's one word that can make her vulnerable, one word that can bring down her protective shield. When McKiernan answered her phone Friday morning, she wasn't prepared for what she heard on the other end of the line.
"This voice said, 'Grandma, Grandma?' I said, 'Joey?' I gave the name and he said, 'Yeah, I'm in trouble. I'm in Canada. I need help, but it has to be between you and I. Don't tell anyone else,'" she recalled.
McKiernan says the voice she thought was Joey was scratchy and difficult to understand. While trying to figure that out, another voice said he was a policeman and said Joey had been arrested with marijuana in Niagra Falls, Canada.
McKiernan recalled the caller telling her, "'He tested clean. If you can send x-amount of dollars within three hours, we'll have him out of here. If not, he'll have to spend the weekend here in jail."
Within a few minutes she agreed to send $5,800 by wire to Spain. McKiernan said the voice was insistent and she relented. The voice was specific -- go to Wal-Mart and send half the money. Then go to H-E-B and send the other half. After she did it, she tried calling back but the line was dead. By the end of the day on Friday, McKiernan knew she'd been scammed.
"It's a large amount of money for me. It's a large amount of money for me," she said. "At that moment I felt stupid."
McKiernan is on a fixed income and realizes she will never see that money again. Her grandson Joey is working in Iraq and did not call asking for money. McKiernan says she was following her heart, not her brain.
"But when you hear your grandson is in trouble you lose all the logic you can possibly have and go to your heart, go to your emotion and that's where you stay all day long," she explained.
McKiernan did call authorities and report the crime, which is all too common in the Houston area. The Better Business Bureau warns seniors to not be afraid to be rude on the phone, don't volunteer any personal information, don't keep secrets and never wire money out of the country.