Relative in Distress Airlift Grandparent Scams -
Fake Grandchild Scam ( Grandson, Granddaughter ) in Trouble
Seeking Emergency Bail Money Fraud - Japanese "Ore Ore" Swindle
Grandma, I'm In Trouble!
In Japan many elderly people are contacted by strangers pretending
to be a relative in distress.
Known there as the "It's me!" scam, the perpetrator
calls up an elderly person pretending to be a relative in distress
in need of some quick cash, and asks that money be transferred
into a phony bank account.
One person was recently charged with establishing and reselling
hundreds of bank accounts in his own name, then claiming he couldn't
be responsible for their misuse.
Some banks send out notices by mail to verify the identity of
someone who is trying to set up a new account but there has also
been an influx of fake change of address notices whereby victims
have had their mail redirected to another address without their
consent. It is presumed that this identity theft would lead
to new accounts being opened without their knowledge.
Scam Alert: Grandmother falls prey to fake
By Edgar Sanchez -- Sac Bee Staff Writer
05/11/04 CA - Bessie Lofton accepted a collect phone call recently
from a man claiming to be Sean, her 22-year-old grandson.
"Grandma, I need your help," the caller told the Woodland
woman, asking her to remain on the line.
"It really sounded like my grandson," said Lofton, 75,
explaining why she kept her ear to the phone.
Next, she heard the voices of two other men telling her that Sean,
of Davis, had been arrested in Modesto in connection with a hit-and-run
One of the men, who identified himself as Juan Garcia Jr., claimed
to be a bail bondsman.
He requested $840 so he could bail Sean out of jail.
At that point, "Sean" got back on the line and said
jailers had refused to accept his personal check to cover the bail.
"Please send the money, Grandma ... I'll pay you back," the
Within minutes, Lofton wired $840 to Garcia via Western Union.
When Lofton contacted her grandson the next day, he knew nothing
about his having been "arrested."
"That's when I realized I had walked into a scam, and I started
to cry," Lofton said. "It was a terrible scam."
Lofton was one of five Woodland grandmothers recently targeted
for the bail scam, Woodland police said last week.
While two of the intended victims wired money to the con men,
Lofton was the only one to lose her cash, police Sgt. Susan Lundquist
"Another lady did send the money, but her family found out
and said, 'This doesn't sound right,' " Lundquist said. "They
put a stop-payment on it, and the money was never picked up."
The other grandmothers had become suspicious and hung up on the
con men, she said.
The incidents served as a reminder to beware of phone scams, police
Citizens should never "blindly follow the directions of people
who call them on the phone," Lundquist said.
"If someone calls you from jail, you can get the jail's main
number from the phone book or directory assistance," she said. "Then,
you can call the jail yourself.
"Or call a reputable bail-bond company, and it can confirm" whether
someone has been arrested, she added.
The bail scam is usually pulled by traveling con artists, Sacramento
bounty hunter Leonard Padilla said.
"These are con artists who run around the state, hitting
different cities at different times," he said.
Each successful scam hurts the image of legitimate bail-bond agents,
all of whom seek to stop the crooks, Padilla said.
"Local bail-bond companies don't want anyone to think that
their companies are involved in this," he said.
Lofton, meanwhile, said she's out more than $900 - including a
$78 fee that Western Union charged to wire the $840.
Before wiring the cash to a Western Union office in Modesto, Lofton
provided a secret code to "Garcia" so he could claim
For Lofton, the greatest mystery is how the phony "Sean" managed
to emulate the voice of her real grandson and obtain his name.
"I really did think I was talking to my grandson," she
Her grandson, Lofton said, is an outstanding young man who's never
been in trouble with the law.
"They were brilliant," Lofton said of the con men. "I
just hope they get caught.
"If I ever faced them in court, the bailiffs would have to
handcuff me, because I would want to choke these people to death."
Give a Prayer, Not Money
Using church directories, someone is calling clergy at different
times throughout the day and night claiming to live in the area
of the church, police said.
The person claims to be stranded in Florida or another state after
attending a family funeral.
Typically, the scam artists continue and say because of an accident
or problem with the family car, they need money wired to them by
Church Lady Mugged
A secretary at a church in Atlanta, Georgia was new on the job.
She got a call from a man who said he was a church member and he
was calling from Toronto, Canada. He needed money because he had
been mugged and left with a broken nose. The church secretary didn't
exactly know who the man was, but he sounded like a specific church
member she knew.
She asked if the man was that church member. Yes, the man said,
adding that he sounded different because of his broken nose. The
church secretary wired the man $400 via Western Union. Turns out,
the man was posing as a church member. The church is out $400,
and the church treasurer wants other churches to be aware of the
"It's me, send money!" Scams
Yokohama, Japan, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- A man was swindled out of $450,000
in the latest of a spate of "It's me, send money" scams that have
been sweeping Japan, police said Wednesday.
The 60-year-old man in Yokohama received a phone call Monday from a sobbing
man posing as his son, who said he had hit two people in his car. Four
men, claiming to be police officers and lawyers, talked to him in subsequent
phone calls, demanding he remit funds to two bank accounts.
During the phone calls, one of the men told the man his son had run over
a couple, and another threatened, "He'll be jailed."
All the money was withdrawn from both accounts after the man sent it,
the Mainichi Shimbun reported Wednesday.
Though the victim was suspicious, he followed the men's demands after
they hinted that an out-of-court settlement would be impossible if he
faltered. Later the man realized it was a scam when he contacted the
bar association to which the "lawyer" claimed to belong.
Reports have surfaced of a wave of similar frauds involving people posing
as relatives and demanding money in recent months.
01/05 -OSAKA, Japan --A former cabinet minister said Saturday
he was almost duped by a swindler who phoned to say his lawmaker
son had caused a traffic accident and demanded that he pay money
into a designated bank account.
Former Construction Minister Masaaki Nakayama, 72, said the caller, who
reached him at his cell phone on Oct. 4, claimed he was a police officer.
"Your son has caused a traffic accident," the caller said, and went on to ask
Nakayama to immediately transfer 1.98 million yen to a bank account into which
he said the other party in the accident had been supposed to deposit the same
sum by that hour--a typical claim used in what was known as the "ore, ore" (It's
me) phone scam that has victimized hundreds of unsuspecting elderly people across
Willing to Give a Scammer Anything for
WEST PALM BEACH: A south Florida woman is trying to inform the
public about a scam that plays on people's emotions. The woman
gave her credit card information over the phone because she thought
it was a matter of life or death.
It took me to such a place I just thought the worst."
Sherrye Fenton and her friend Cathy Catanzaro were headed to the
airport in Charlotte, North Carolina Sunday when Sherrye's cell
"It's a man saying he was with a woman who was in a major
car accident and that she was unconscious and she had a lot of
injuries, did I have a family member traveling," Fenton said.
The man on the phone identified himself as a Lieutenant and said
the accident was in Juno Beach...where Fenton's mother lives.
"She had been hit by a bread truck and the driver was intoxicated
and the driver was in custody," said Fenton.
The man on the phone never gave Fenton an exact location. She
was then connected with a dispatcher to provide her mother's medical
"She said well, she has insurance, but the insurance will
not cover a Trauma Hawk transport," said Fenton.
Fenton became hysterical and gave the phone to her friend. The
woman told her they needed payment before Fenton's mother could
"I got the credit card, gave them the info," said Catanzaro.
She asked about the location of Fenton's mother.
"Where is she now? And she said, Juno Medical Center. And
I said there is no Juno Medical Center. She said Jupiter Medical
Center," said Fenton.
When she hung up after about 30 minutes, Catanzaro was skeptical.
Fenton called her mother's house, and she answered the phone. That's
when they realized it was all a scam.
"To make me think my mother's laying in the street, that
she's badly hurt, that she's possibly going to die, it was horrible," said
All for a mere $86 charge on Fenton's credit card at a cell phone
store in Ohio. Fenton says what those people did was unforgivable.
"I was willing to do whatever I had to do to help my mother," said
Fenton has filed a police report with the Juno Beach Police Department.
Her credit card company is also investigating.
Relative in an Accident Scam Victims
05/06 - (IL) Lake Forest police are warning senior citizens
of a new telephone scam that has shown up in their city where a
caller uses a fake story about a grandson in trouble.
The caller states that he is the grandson of the person on the
telephone and states that he was in an accident in Canada and needs
$3,000 to $4,000 to get out of jail.
"We've had seven people contacted, and one person sent $3,000," said
Deputy Chief Dave Field.
That person went to the Vernon Hills Wal-Mart and had a Moneygram
sent to an address in Toronto where it was picked up, he said.
"The other people have called their grandson to find out
if it was real and others realized it was bogus," he said.
"They must be working off some kind of list because everyone
they have contacted has been elderly," said Field. He believes
other people along the North Shore may also be getting these calls.
One person who received a call told police that "Privado
Origan" showed up on their caller ID when the call was made.
But no telephone number was listed.
Celebrity Gays Used in Ploy to Dupe Helpful
06/06 - Police are investigating after a local business owner
fell victim Tuesday to a telephone scam that targets gays and lesbians
But Jim Bain, advertising manager of Wayves, a local gay newsmagazine,
said the fraud artists have been at it for the past three years,
but someone finally admitted to falling for it.
Each year, the criminals seem to pick a different group to target,
Mr. Bain said. This year, they re using Wayves because the publication
s staff are widely known in the gay community and their names are
published in the paper and online, said Mr. Bain, whose own name
was used in recent attempted scams.
A man claiming to be a writer for Wayves phoned the Blue Moon
Bistro on Gottingen Street on Tuesday night and spoke with a staff
member who knew the writer. The man said that he and Mr. Bain had
been beaten and robbed of their ID in Toronto and they needed someone
to wire them money so they could get back to Halifax.
The bar employee told the bistro s owner, John Dickinson, the
story and said he knew the writer very well before asking if Mr.
Dickinson could help the two men out with $600. Mr. Dickinson figured
he would get the money back the next day after the two men returned
Because the caller claimed he had no ID, he and the bar employee
agreed to a question the man would have to answer at the Western
Union office in order to get the money. But as soon as they finished
wiring the money to a Western Union outlet in Toronto, the employee
decided to call Mr. Bain, only to discover he was fine and in Halifax.
The employee then called the police to report the fraud, but it
was too late.
Mr. Dickinson said although he s a little bit angry and embarrassed
about being taken, he d still help out someone in need in the future.
He d just be more careful.
"If you can take advantage of my greed, I don t mind that
because I deserve it," Mr. Dickinson said. "But when
you take advantage of my good heart, that s where I get a little
Mr. Dickinson said he s straight and only recently bought the
gay bar. He decided to lend the money to the two men because gays
and lesbians support his business, and it was the right thing to
Before Mr. Dickinson was conned, someone claiming to be the same
writer called Darren Lewis, co-owner of Chives Canadian Bistro
on Barrington Street. The fraudster thought he was calling Blue
Moon Bistro and told Mr. Lewis the same story.
Mr. Lewis writes a column for Wayves, which, in the most recent
issue, was published next to a review of Blue Moon Bistro. The
confusion of the two restaurants was just the first flag that went
up for Mr. Lewis, who said he also thought the man sounded drunk
or on drugs.
"None of what he was saying seemed to make any sense," Mr.
Lewis said. "I said that to him."
The man replied that he was on pain medication after the attack
and that he was a little bit confused.
So Mr. Lewis put the man on hold and called a mutual friend who
knows the writer and Mr. Bain. The friend said he had spoken to
the writer and Mr. Bain earlier in the day, and they were in Halifax,
so Mr. Lewis hung up on the fraudster.
"I didn t fall for it," Mr. Lewis said. "It was
just kind of weird to me."
Mr. Lewis said he heard another local gay bar was targeted by
a different phone scam recently, but the bar didn t give the caller
On Thursday night, three people Mr. Bain knows through his work
with Wayves and who live in Fredericton, Moncton and Eastern Passage
were contacted by someone claiming to be Mr. Bain.
"Last night, according to people I talked to, I was in Hamilton,
Niagara Falls and Toronto. All three places, I got beat up. It
s been a horrible vacation," Mr. Bain said with a laugh.
Although he can laugh now, he said, it s the nature of the gay
community to protect its own, and it s terrible someone would take
advantage of that.
"I know that every year, it s been reported to the police,
and I m skeptical they will do anything about it this year," Mr.
Halifax Regional Police confirmed the financial crimes section
is investigating a fraud committed Tuesday but the force hasn t
received any other complaints, according to police spokeswoman
"From a safety perspective, we would advise that if anyone
is faced with a similar situation, (they) verify the authenticity
of the request and validity of the story, and if they have any
suspicions whatsoever, do not send the money," Ms. Brien said. "We
would also ask they report the incident to police."
`Grandson scam' hits Fairlawn couple
Fake, frantic phone call asks for money
07/06 - FAIRLAWN - A Bunker Drive couple who thought they were
helping a grandson in trouble instead were scammed out of nearly
And they're not alone, said Fairlawn Detective David Zampelli.
Zampelli said Irene Kellerman, 76, thought she was talking to
her grandson -- who lives in Vermont -- when she received a frantic
call for help on July 7.
``He said he was at a bachelor party in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada,
at a strip joint," Zampelli said. ``He said things got out of
hand and he got arrested and needed bail money."
The story sounded plausible to the Kellermans, because their grandson
is getting married in three weeks. The woman and her husband, Edward,
went to Wal-Mart and wired nearly $3,000 to Canada.
``The guy called back and said, `Thanks, Grandma, I got your money,"' Zampelli said.
The next day, the couple's grandson, Brian Kellerman, called from
Connecticut, where he was visiting his fiancee's family.
``She started asking him about his adventure in Canada, and he
didn't know what she was talking about," Zampelli said.
Citing privacy concerns, the Canadian company that facilitated
the transaction has been reluctant to give police information about
the person who picked up the money, Zampelli said. The detective
holds out little hope of getting back the couple's money.
Zampelli thinks that there may be more people in the area who
either have gotten the fake frantic phone call and disregarded
it or have fallen for the scam as the Kellermans did.
A search of the Internet found the same scam -- called the ``grandson
scam" or ``it's me!" scam -- pulled on senior citizens as far
away as California and Japan, according to a Web site called www.crimes-of-persuasion.com
Zampelli said that despite the apparent urgent nature, these kind
of calls need to be verified before sending money or giving out
``If someone wants you to wire money to Canada or overseas, that
should raise a red flag." Irene Kellerman has a warning for other
``The first thing you want to do is save your children," she
said. ``But whenever there's a problem, always make sure you check
Airlift Scam Operator Goes to Prison
11/06 - (AP) A man pleaded guilty to stealing about $40,000 by
telling people over the phone that a member of their family was
critically ill and asking them to wire him money to transport their
loved one by helicopter.
Billy John Edwards, 44, pleaded guilty in Macomb County Circuit
Court to a charge of running a criminal enterprise. He was accused
of operating a nationwide "airlift scam" in which he
and alleged accomplices stole about $40,000 from 28 people across
The offense carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
In exchange for the plea, a second count of the same charge and
a habitual offender charge will be dismissed. Under a sentencing
agreement, he will be sentenced to 10 to 20 years.
"The victims are pleased with this resolution," assistant
prosecutor Kim Mitseff said.
Warning: Bail-money scam surfaces in county
The Hillsboro Argus
03/06 - (Oregon) Since Feb. 14, deputies from the Washington County
Sheriff's Office have taken four fraud reports involving the same
An unknown man is calling people purporting to be their grandson
and asking for bail money.
Sheriff's deputies took fraud reports on Feb. 14, 15, 16 and 18.
The reports involved a man calling and telling the victim he was
their grandson and he had been arrested in Canada.
The caller then asked for money to be wired to Canada so he could
post bail. Many of the grandparents fell victim to this scam, resulting
in a total loss of over $14,000.
The Washington County Fraud and Identity Theft Enforcement Team
forwarded this information to the U.S. Secret Service and the Royal
Canadian Mounted Police in an effort to catch the person or persons
responsible for these crimes.
The FITE team wants the public to be aware of this scam. They
advise people to verify to whom they are sending money, If wiring
money, make sure it is going to a location that requires identification
at the time of receipt.
Call the Washington County FITE team at 503-615-3483 if you or
anyone you know has fallen victim to this scam.
Fake relatives bilk grandmas of thousands
GEORGE HESSELBERG - Wisconsin State Journal
01/06 - (Wisconsin) Fake grandsons are contacting real grandmothers
in Baraboo, asking for bail money.
Three such fake-relative-in- distress swindles were reported to
police Monday. In two of them, the trusting grandparent wired thousands
of dollars to a Canadian address to get a grandson out of jail.
In none of the cases was a grandchild in trouble. In some places,
it is called the "It's me!" swindle.
The calls were made in the afternoon Monday, said Lt. Robert Sinden
of the Baraboo police. Though there are several versions of the
scam, the one attempted with success in Baraboo involved a call
from someone identifying himself as a jail staff member in Toronto.
"They purport to be a law enforcement official, and that
would get the attention of anybody," said Sinden.
The caller says the swindle- victim's grandson has been arrested
and needs bail money to be released. The caller then identifies
a location to wire the money.
In the Baraboo cases, though it was unclear if the pattern was
intentional, all three victims were grandmothers, said Sinden.
The cases were similar in that the catalyzing event for the call
was a vehicle crash a long way from home.
"In some cases, (the victim) asked to speak with the grandson
and even felt they were speaking to the grandson," he said.
Two of the victims wired money, between $3,000 and $4,000, to
Canada, said Sinden. In one case, the bank refused to send the
money and contacted police, he said.
"The calls were all made in the span of about three hours
(Monday) afternoon," he said.
The Baraboo Police Department would like to hear from anyone else
who may have received a telephone call from someone claiming to
be a bail bondsman or jailer or grandchild in trouble, said Sinden. "The
more calls we get, the more we can pinpoint what we can do about
it," he said. Sinden can be contacted at 608- 355-2720.
Madison police said they had not received any complaints, though
media across the country have carried articles describing similar
successful swindles targeting elderly victims. Experts on elderly
abuse include the "relative in distress" fraud as one
of the top swindles aimed at elderly victims. The National Consumers
League last year named wire transfer as the most common way scammers
have received money from victims and as the favored method of payment
in telemarketing fraud.
The "relative in distress" swindle even has a Japanese
derivative, called the "It's me, It's me" swindle, after
a popular fraud related to stolen cellular phones used to call
Police recommend that if approached for money in an emergency
situation, a person should confirm it is really a relative - for
example, by asking a question only a relative would know. Another
recommendation is to confirm with another relative that the relative
in question is in town (or Canada).
The final recommendation, from the Washington, D.C., Police Department's
fraud unit: "Go with your gut - if you don't feel comfortable
with the situation, say no and hang up the telephone."
Swindler posing as mayor in telephone begging
scam - Imposter asks for money to help Sutherland’s ‘family
by Sylvie Paillard - Squamish Chief
11/06 -(British Columbia) Mayor Ian Sutherland is not calling
people up to solicit financial help for his family – but
someone else is apparently doing so as part of a bizarre scam.
“It’s almost unbelievable,” said Sutherland
after hearing that a man impersonating him was using a hard luck
story to solicit funds. “I guess what it shows is that there
are people who are willing to do almost anything to get money out
of other people.”
Sutherland discovered the telephone scam only after two targeted
businesses phoned him with suspicions and to ask if he “was
okay”, concerned that his family was somehow facing difficulties.
The imposter said the funds were to “aid a family situation,” according
to an RCMP report. “This fraudulent male, who is not Mayor
Ian Sutherland, has requested that monies be deposited in a Western
Union or Money Mart account.”
The scam is similar to one attempted last year when an imposter
posed as a First Nations Chief to get hard luck money out of Victoria
Mayor Alan Lowe. Lowe wasn’t as suspicious as most recent
targets, and did send money before discovering he’d been
“It’s unfortunate that people take advantage of people’s
good nature and goodwill,” said Sutherland. “It makes
it that when people really are in need of something, people would
hesitate to help because they hear stories like this one.”
RCMP is reminding residents to be aware of telephone scams and
to be wary if the individual addresses you by your first name and
asks personal questions.
Anyone with information relating to this scam is asked to contact
Squamish RCMP Cst. John Marinis at 604-892-6100.
Fraud artist masquerades as mayor, police say
by Carolyn Heiman - Times Colonist (Victoria)
07/06 (British Columbia) Little old ladies aren't the only ones
susceptible to the charms and tear-jerking stories of scam artists.
Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe and Esquimalt Mayor Chris Clement, along
with staff at several prominent hotels, were targeted this year
by a phone scammer whose convincing story elicited a total of $900
from Lowe and The Empress hotel.
Victoria police Det. Dan Cottingham said the fraud artist is still
targeting prominent businesses and people throughout the province.
In the new variation, the scammer is impersonating Lowe and telling
a tale indicating a family tragedy has struck while the mayor is
visiting the Lower Mainland. The caller asks the person for an
emergency loan to be wired to either to Western Union or Money
The persistence of the scam speaks to the challenges of bringing
charges in fraud cases, said Cottingham, who works in the financial-crime
He said police did pick up a suspect when Money Mart alerted them
to a transfer of funds that appeared suspicious. But Cottingham
said it is the phone call, not the money pickup, that constitutes
the fraud, a factor that makes prosecuting the cases difficult.
"Picking up at the money is helpful, but not enough to lay
charges. [A suspect] has been arrested several times picking up
a transfer. But you have to be able to prove he made the telephone
"I would sure like to shut this thing down, but it is very
tough to put a lid on this."
The fraud is happening in a number of police jurisdictions, contributing
to difficulties in shutting it down, said Cottingham.
He suspects several individuals are involved and that a total
of $25,000 might have been collected via the calls, each netting
$300 to $500.
A fraud like this can happen to anyone, Cottingham added. "Now
they are targeting high-profile people."
Lowe said he lost the money when he responded to a call from someone
claiming to be Esquimalt First Nation Chief Andy Thomas.
The caller said the chief's grandson had died in a boating accident
in northern British Columbia and that he needed money transferred
into an account so a family member could fly to the location and
identify the body.
"It sounded just like him and I wanted to help him out," said
Lowe, adding he learned he had been tricked the next day, when
he asked a close acquaintance about Thomas.
Cottingham's advice: "Do your due diligence. Wire transfers
are very popular with fraudsters."
Most fraudsters will create a story designed to make the victim
believe they know each other, he said.
Scam artist hits town again
12/06 - PROVINCETOWN, MA — A conniving con artist who had
success last spring convincing local residents to send him money
in Canada is apparently back at work.
Provincetown Police Officer Glenn Enos said the scammer has called
at least four people in town in the past week, claiming to be local
event promoter David Flowers. The calls are made from a pay phone
in Canada, where the caller claims he was in a fight the night
before and had all his money stolen. He then says he was in the
hospital and needed money wired to him in order to purchase a plane
ticket back to Provincetown.
Three of the local recipients of the scam became suspicious and
called police. A fourth believed the con artist and wired $400
The scam is almost identical to one this past spring, where a
caller identifying himself as Rosario Ebert claimed to be stranded
in Canada after a mugging and needed money immediately. That scam
netted the caller $500 from two guesthouse owners.
The current scam also resembles one in September 2004 and July
2003, when a series of fake calls was placed to Provincetown business
owners. In the 2004 incident, the caller identified himself as
a local spa owner who said he needed emergency funds wired to him
at a Western Union office in Hamilton, Ontario. In 2003, the caller
said he was Scott Dinsmore, owner of Scott Dinsmore Antiques on
Commercial Street. At that time, two people wired the fake Dinsmore
State police report scam artist
by Mike Gleason - Bennington Banner
12/06 - Vermont — Several people throughout the Dorset area
have been victimized by a phone scam, according to the Vermont
Allegedly, a person has been calling people, claiming to be a
friend or family member of the victim. If asked why the voice is
unfamiliar, the caller claims to have a broken nose or be using
a damaged pay phone. The caller claims to be mugged or kidnapped
in Canada, and must turn to the victim for financial help, generally
around $500. The caller allegedly insists the money be sent via
Western Union to a location in Canada where the money can be retrieved.
According to police, the caller has information about the victims,
and is able to come up with a variety of convincing stories.
The state police termed the scam as "very clever" in
a release and warned: "The scam artist has and uses information
about you, your family and your friends to assist in convincing
you he is who he says."
Area woman loses $7,000 in bail money phone scam
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
12/31/2007 - DOVER -- An 80-year-old woman in rural Dover was
swindled out of $7,000, according to the Olmsted County Sheriff's
The increasingly common scam involves people posing as grandchildren
who need money to get out of jail, according to detective Brad
Nelson. He said the scams happen over the phone with swindlers
claiming to be calling from Canada.
Nelson said a man called the rural Dover woman Dec. 4 and said
he was her grandson. The man said he had been arrested for a fishing
violation in Canada and needed $3,800 for bail. The woman sent
the money, and the next day the man asked her for $3,200 more,
which the woman also sent, Nelson said.
No arrests have been made. Such cases can be difficult to track
because different jurisdictions are involved, said Rochester police
Lt. Dan Muyres.
Israeli-Run "Stranded Traveler" Scam Targeted Muslims
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- (OfficialWire) -- 01/06 -- The Council on
American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today announced that an alleged
con artist who targeted Muslims has been extradited from Canada
to the United States to face federal charges. CAIR also called
on victims of the "stranded traveler" scam to provide
any information that may be useful to prosecutors in the case.
Mohammed Agbareia made an initial appearance Monday in U.S. District
Court in Alabama on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit
wire fraud. FBI officials say a co-defendant, Zouhair Hissy, was
arrested in Canada on January 4. The two men were indicted by a
federal grand jury in Mobile, Ala., for trying to bilk a local
Islamic center out of $1500 using a scam that relied on the Islamic
tradition of helping travelers in distress.
The alleged con-artist's primary method of operation was to place
phone calls claiming to be a well-known Muslim leader, official
or scholar stranded at an airport after his money, passport and
tickets had been stolen or lost. He would ask the intended victim,
typically a leader or activist in a local Muslim community, to
wire cash through MoneyGram or Western Union to help him out of
the crisis. After receiving the funds, he would disappear.
In May of last year, CAIR called on Canadian authorities to apprehend
and extradite Agbareia and Hissy. CAIR said it has been receiving
reports about Agbareia's scam for many years and had issued a number
of alerts to the Muslim community in this country and worldwide.
Agbareia, who is apparently an Israeli citizen, was arrested in
2002 by Canadian authorities but was later released.
"All those individuals and institutions targeted in the 'stranded
traveler' con should now provide information to prosecutors so
they can build their case based on the evidence built up over almost
20 years," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Over the years, Awad and CAIR worked with law enforcement authorities
in a number of countries in an effort to bring the alleged con
artists to justice. He said Muslims worldwide have been defrauded
of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars.
03/06 - MOBILE, Ala. -- AP -An international wire fraud scheme
targeting Islamic institutions with a phony stranded-traveler plea,
netting only small sums but hitting multiple victims over many
years, has been disrupted by the arrest of its mastermind, the
Islamic advocates say Mohammed Mustafa Agbareia, who was arrested
in Canada and pleaded guilty March 1 in Alabama to one count of
conspiracy to commit wire fraud, may have scammed more than $1
million from mosques and Islamic groups over nearly two decades.
He will be sentenced July 10 by U.S. District Judge Charles Butler
in Mobile, where he is in the custody of federal marshals.
Agbareia is accused of claiming to be with a Saudi development
bank investing in local Islamic society projects. Eventually he
would contact Islamic leaders asking for money, saying he was stranded
at an airport in Canada or another distant location and needed
Agbareia manipulated the Islamic tenet of lending aid to a stranded
traveler, the FBI says.
He would always ask for $1,000 to $1,500 -- amounts small enough
to "pass under the radar" of local authorities, said
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic
Relations (CAIR) in Washington, D.C.
"This guy was really unique," Hooper said in an interview
Agbareia, whose guilty plea was first reported by the Mobile Register,
faces a possible 5-year prison sentence, a $250,000 fine and 3
years of federal supervision after his prison release. But penalties
could vary because a religious institution was a victim and the
court's sentencing guidelines are only advisory in this case, according
to the plea agreement.
The scheme dates to the 1990s and had at least 45 victims in the
United States before being halted. It involved over 10,000 solicitations
for money, according to the FBI.
Agbareia was indicted in Mobile and Vermont on the fraud charges
about a year ago. A second man, Zouhair Youssei Hissy, also was
indicted in Mobile for an alleged role in the scheme and awaits
extradition to the United States from Canada.
Agbareia, 40, was arrested in Canada pending his unrelated deportation
to Israel. Records show he's from Nazareth in Israel.
The FBI probe of Agbareia began in Vermont where two victims were
defrauded, an FBI spokesman said in a March 22 statement about
the case. Another complaint came in Alabama in 2004 from the Islamic
Society of Mobile Mosque.
Collecting victims' phone numbers on the Internet, Islamic institutions
or mosques were contacted by Agbareia and Hissy, who claimed to
represent the Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB).
Agbareia usually kept 60-80 percent of the money, with Hissy getting
the remainder, the FBI said.
In Mobile, FBI spokesman Special Agent Craig Dahle said it's unknown
how much money the scheme collected. He said there could be victims
In the plea agreement, Agbareia, represented by the public defender's
office, agreed to forfeit any proceeds of his criminal activity
and cooperate with the government's investigation under threat
of additional charges.
Grandson with Broken Down Car Needs Western Union Transfer Scam
01/080 - Kansas - Wichita Police are warning seniors about a new
scam that's surfaced in the Wichita area. Lieutenant Hassan Ramzah
with the Wichita Police Department Financial Crimes unit says the
department has received eight calls from senior citizens since
The potential victims include seven women and one man ages 54-86.
The caller tells the victim that he was their grandson and that
his car broke down in Kansas City. The caller asked for them to
send some money through Western Union to help.
The man would then give the name of a friend, J.D. Taylor, to
wire the money. Two of the reported eight seniors wired the money.
One of the wire transfers was for $871 and was picked up in Kansas
City. The other transaction was also around $800.
Wichita Police are working with Kansas City Police on the case.
More Elderly Senior Victims in Grandson Scam
02/08 - It's been dubbed the "Grandson Scam" and some
in the Wichita area have fallen victim.
Dorothy Burden got a phone call from a man who claimed to be her
grandson. He said he was calling from Kansas City and his wallet
had been stolen. He needed money for car repairs and would pay
her back the next day.
"It made sense at the time," says Burden. "I just
felt sorry for him." Burden is no easy victim. The 83-year-old
surfs the internet and keeps up on the latest scams.
"I was all prepared not to give account numbers or credit
card numbers or anything like that over the phone." However,
convinced the caller was her grandson, she followed his instructions
on how to wire money through Western Union. She sent $800.
"It just makes me mad that I bit on it."
In the past month, Wichita police say 14 people have filed police
reports about the same scam. Investigators think more people were
probably called and some were likely reluctant to admit they were
victimized. For Burden and her family, it was just the beginning.
After sending the money, Burden's phone kept ringing. Her daughter,
Carol Carter, believes the same criminals were calling back with
a different scheme.
"Could it be someone that knew they got her once that could
come back again?"
Carter wanted to end the calls for good. She confronted the person
on the line and the calls have stopped for now.
"It just goes to show no matter who you are there's someone
out there that can pull your strings," says Carter.
The family hopes their experience makes others aware of how criminals
will use heart strings to get to your purse strings.
Police warn of telephone scammer posing as grandson
01/08 - The phone rang moments after Edna Baker returned from
Bible study Jan. 20.
The caller told her he was her favorite grandson, and his car
had broken down while he was in Kansas City. Could he send her
$800 for the repairs?
His words made sense to Baker. She did have a grandson she liked
to call her favorite, and he had a Jeep that broke down if he drove
it too much.
But the more they talked, the less things made sense. He never
used his name, and all he really seemed to care about was her credit
"He never did tell me his name or anything," Baker said
Tuesday. "That's when I began to say to him, 'Is this on the
It wasn't. Baker was one of more than a half-dozen people in Wichita
to be called over the past month by someone posing as a grandson
needing money, police said Tuesday.
Two of those people did as they were told and wired more than
$800 each via Western Union. Baker would have been another victim.
However, she called her daughter to come over and help sort out
the situation, and Western Union refused to send the money when
herdaughter could not correctly answer a security question.
The next morning, Baker's son-in-law called her grandson. He was
home in bed in Wichita, baffled as to why anyone thought he was
in Kansas City.
Lt. Hassan Ramzah, who heads the financial crimes section of the
Police Department, said the caller has been picking on elderly
residents and gives them the name of someone he claims is a friend
to send the money to.
The scam is particularly dangerous because it preys on a victim's
natural willingness to help a family member in a crisis, he said.
To protect themselves from the scammer, people should ask the
caller lots of personal questions that only real family members
That would likely be enough to scare the scammers away, police
Police warn seniors to be wary of ‘family’members
in trouble phone scam.
It’s a call any grandmother would love to get — at
least she believes so when she answers the phone.
“Hi, Grandma, how are you?”
“Is that you, Jimmy?
“Yea, grandma, it’s your grandson Jimmy.”
It’s the grandson she hasn’t heard from for a long
time — or so she thinks.
But Jimmy has a problem. He says he has a car in the shop, is
getting held up at the bus station or whatever lie a scammer wants
to float out there. Jimmy needs money to get home, and has no I.D.
“It’s I got myself into a fix. I lost my billfold,
I’m in Kansas City and want to get back home. Could you send
me some money?” Newton Police Detective T. Walton said.
And because Jimmy has lost anything with his identification on
it, if Grandma would wire the money to Western Union and use the
name of his good friend Ed Bailey, Bailey can get the money and
give it to Jimmy.
But it’s all a scam, and hundreds of older women have been
taken in by the scam.
“They were targeting the elderly, and they were targeting
families where the husband was a World War II vet, and a lot of
those guys are gone now so it’s widows that are getting taken,” Walton
said. “These guys got thousands upon thousands of dollars.”
Walton said an investigator in Johnson County has identified who
is making those calls and is working to put them behind bars.
And while there is an open case in Newton that is going to be
forwarded to Johnson County as part of their case, Walton wonders
if there are not more people in the area who got a call and lost
“They might have been too embarrassed about this to call
us,” Walton said. “But if you did get these calls and
sent them money, please contact me. I want to help.”
Walton said there is a possibility, though slight, money can be
returned. He’s not making any promises.
But he did say the scammers will be prosecuted.
“We want to put these guys away,” Walton said. “We
are going to gather up all of our cases and all of Sedgwick County’s
cases and send it to Johnson County so they can work it as one
large case — which makes sense.”
Relative in Distress Scam Targets Elderly Chinese Victims
02/080- California - A San Francisco resident was arrested this
morning in connection with a scam that lasted at least 14 months
and targeted elderly Chinese victims.
Police said 42-year-old Ken Hue Hua is suspected of calling victims,
pretending to be a doctor, relative or friend.
He would then allegedly tell the victims that a family member
needed money for car repairs, bail money, fees to the Chinese Embassy
or to pay overdue bills.
According to police, Hua would allegedly arrange to have the victims
meet him and give him money, a total of almost $11,000 over seven
In addition to the seven charged cases, police say another 19
people were victims of the same scam and lost a total of $16,000.
All of the victims were of Chinese descent and most were over
65 years old, police said. The most recent incident took place
Hua was charged with 24 counts of elder financial abuse and grand
and petty theft, including 14 felony counts.
Police urge anyone who may have been a victim of Hua’s to
call the San Francisco Fraud Section (415) 553-1521.
San Fransisco Sentinel
Daughter in Distress Scam
04/08 - (Singapore) - It seemed his daughter had gone to meet a friend whom she had met online in the US state of Ohio when she got robbed, said the retiree, who wanted to be known only as Mr Chan.
His daughter, Karen, works as a lawyer in London.
As the hotel would not let her leave unless she paid the bill, she needed him to transfer £2,600 ($7,000) through Western Union within 24 hours.
It was only after a few frantic calls and upon closer reading that he realised it was a scam, and that someone had actually hacked into his daughter's e-mail account.
Mr Chan, 64, told The New Paper that he was at home on 15 Apr when he read the e-mail.
'I was surprised that she would send a message asking for help over e-mail. What if I didn't check my e-mails for a few days?'
He also wondered why his daughter didn't just call using her handphone, as she usually does.
His wife also read it. Said Mrs Chan: 'I scanned quickly through it and my instant reaction was to get worried.'
The Chans said it was plausible because their daughter was due to travel to Morocco around that time.
'It was possible that she had got into some trouble, although we did wonder why she was suddenly going to the US,' Mrs Chan said.
They quickly called their 32-year-old daughter in London, but she did not answer as it was late at night there.
They then contacted their son in Hong Kong, and forwarded the e-mail to him. He told them it was 'sheer nonsense'.
Mrs Chan said they were 'not thinking straight' at first. 'Logic just flew out of our heads because we thought she was in trouble,' she said.
'A Western Union transfer is immediate, so can you imagine if we had rushed off to send the money?'
Mrs Chan said the biggest giveaway was their daughter supposedly signing off as 'Karen'.
'She usually signs off as Mei, which is what we call her. Her Chinese name is Li Mei,' said Mrs Chan.
She felt the story was amateurish. 'It's lame that she had gone to the US just to meet someone whom she had met over the Internet,' she said.
Mr Chan said he also noticed spelling and grammatical errors in the e-mail, which his daughter was unlikely to make.
Still, they were concerned that someone had actually hacked into their daughter's e-mail account.
'Someone read through her e-mails and knew she would be making a trip, and that she e-mails her father,' said Mrs Chan.
Their daughter told The New Paper over the phone that she was alarmed when she received an urgent SMS from her parents asking her to call them.
She said she was angry and felt violated when she found out what had happened.
There were tell-tale signs that something was not right even before that, she said.
Just the day before her parents had read the e-mail, Miss Chan said she had trouble logging in to her account, which comes under a free e-mail service provided by British Telecommunications.
'I thought it was strange as I had not changed my password in more than 10 years,' she said.
She then called the provider and had her password reset but did not think much of it after that.
After this incident, Miss Chan said she will close her account once she has copied her contact list and cleared her e-mails. And she won't be buying things on the web any more, and will do her online banking only at work.
'It's sad that we have to be so distrustful, but frauds are becoming more prevalent,' she said.
(The Electric New Paper)
Grandparent Scam, Fake Family Scam