By David Wade

QUINCY (CBS) – A Quincy cab driver is being called a hero for stepping up to stop a scam aimed at an elderly woman. The 87-year-old was about to spend thousands on gift cards, a victim of a rip-off that has become known as the grandparent scam. The cabbie’s actions now mean more seniors will get information about how to protect themselves.

Quincy Yellow Cab driver Richard Spencer was the guest of honor at the Kennedy Senior Center in Quincy for doing what a lot of people won’t do; he got involved. It was early last month that Richard got the call to pick up an 87-year-old woman.

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Richard Spencer (WBZ-TV)

“She says, ‘OK, I want to go to Walmart,'” he said. But when he asked her why, “She says ‘I’ve got to get some gift cards. I got a call from my grandson and the police. He was in a car accident, and if I didn’t come up with $4,000 he was going to jail,'” Richard explained. Warning bells went off immediately. “At that point, I said, ‘Ma’am, I don’t think that’s your grandson and I believe you’re being scammed.'”

So instead of Walmart, Richard brought the woman to the Quincy Police Department. “Well, I just felt it was necessary to squash it as best I could,” he said.

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So Friday became Richard’s day, but for a larger cause. “Today, this industry that’s scamming seniors, they’re making more than $40 billion dollars a year off seniors. That’s awful, isn’t it?” says Walter Laskos of the Cooperative Credit Union Association.

Richard Spencer (WBZ-TV)

To commend Richard’s actions, Massachusetts credit unions donated $1,000 to the Kennedy Senior Center for educational efforts to combat elderly exploitation.

And the stakes are high. “Over a series of calls, they kept needing more money,” said Clara, a woman who just happened to be in the audience today. She was the victim of a similar scam several years ago. Her loss? “Thirty thousand dollars, but I just had to come to grips with that because it’s gone,” she said.

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Massachusetts credit unions have created a program called Senior Safeguards to fight back against scams aimed at the elderly.

David Wade