Beware of "grandparents scam" 2012.08.08

Written by David Green.

The “grandparents scam” has reached Morenci. Con artists have called people in the area in an attempt to bilk residents out of cash.

Callers contact older people and pose as one of their grandchildren. In one case in Michigan, a caller said he was caught fishing in Canada without a license and needed $3,000 to avoid jail.

The money was wired to the “grandson,” but then he claimed that alcohol and drugs were found on the boat and the couple was taken for an additional $30,000.

In a typical call, a grandparent receives a frantic call from someone they believe to be their grandchild. The caller might say, “Hi Grandma, it’s me, your favorite grandchild,” and the grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the caller sounds most like. After that, the scammer takes on that grandchild’s identity for the remainder of the call.

The supposed grandchild sounds distressed and may be calling from a noisy location. The grandchild claims to be involved in some type of trouble while traveling in Canada or overseas, such as being arrested or in a car accident or needing emergency car repairs, and asks the grandparent to immediately wire money.

The scammer typically asks for several thousand dollars, and may even call back again several hours or days later asking for more money. He or she may claim embarrassment about the alleged trouble and asks the grandparent to keep it a secret.

 In one variation of the scam, the first scammer calls and poses as a grandchild under arrest. A second scammer, posing as some type of law enforcement officer, then gets on the phone with the grandparent and explains what fines need to be paid. Alternatively, the scammer may pretend to be a family friend or neighbor. 

Wiring money is like sending cash; there are no protections for the sender.  Typically there is no way you can reverse the transaction, trace the money, or recover payment from the telephone con artists. 

If you receive such a call, you should verify the identity and location of the grandchild claiming to be in trouble. You should hang up and call another family member who can confirm your grandchild’s whereabouts. Try calling your grandchild at the telephone number through which you normally reach him or her.  Stay calm and avoid acting out of a sense of urgency.  Do not wire money unless you have verified with an independent third party that your grandchild is truly in trouble.

 In addition, never give out any personal identifying information such as bank account or credit card numbers to anyone who calls you on the phone.  As in the Grandparents Scam, con artists will lie, cheat, steal, and make up plausible stories to convince you to wire money or divulge sensitive information.  The callers are often professional criminals who are skillfully able to get you to wire money or give personal information before you have time to properly assess the situation.

For more information, contact the Morenci police department by calling 458-7104.

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