Grandparent Scam

Elderly conned in surge of ‘grandson' scams

10/21/09 - (Nevada) An Alta Sierra resident was fooled last week into trying to wire nearly $3,000 to Canada to help out his “grandson” — but was stopped at the last minute by an alert employee at Walmart.

Hal Berry said the “grandson,” who told him he had been in an accident and needed money, had him completely fooled.

“He told me I was the only one he could turn to,” Berry said. “I fell for it — I'd do anything for my grandson.”

Berry said his “grandson” knew his name and even imitated his voice. Luckily, an employee at Walmart — where he had gone to make the cash transfer — recognized the name of the scammer and prevented him from losing his $3,000.

Berry was lucky, but he was just one victim in a recent surge of scams perpetrated on elderly Nevada County residents. The deception typically involves one man claiming to be the victim's grandson, calling from “jail in Canada.” A second man calls soon thereafter, claiming to be the grandson's lawyer and advising the distraught grandparent to wire money through a wire service.

On Monday alone, two such incidents were reported to the Nevada County Sheriff's Office.

In one, a 78-year-old woman from Lake of the Pines reported she sent $2,995 to a man in Canada who identified himself as her grandson. The man told her he had been arrested in Canada for driving under the influence and then a man representing himself as her grandson's attorney requested she wire money. She did send the money, through Western Union.

In the second incident, a man from Lake Wildwood had seen recent media reports and did not fall for the scam.

A suspicious son was able to stop his parents, who live in Lake of the Pines, from sending $5,000 to a scammer two weeks ago.

“I got a phone call from them saying there was an emergency,” said Bill Perry.

The supposed victim was Perry's nephew, Lee, who serves in the Air Force in Germany. The scammers told Perry's parents that Lee had been on leave in Canada and had been in a drunk-driving accident, and asked them not to tell anyone.

When Perry's mother noticed the man didn't sound like her grandson, the scammer told her that was because his jaw had been “busted up” in the wreck.

Perry started working to find the cash, but apparently he wasn't moving quickly enough for the scam artist.

“He called back and this time, I was in the house and I got on the phone,” Perry said. “He repeated the whole sob story, but he didn't sound like my nephew at all. So I asked him some questions only my nephew would know and he couldn't answer them.”

Undaunted, the scammer tried to claim he had a concussion before giving up, Perry said.

Wire services such as Western Union make it easy for criminals to conceal their identities, said Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal.

Scammers also have learned to cover their tracks by buying “go-phones,” Royal said — cheap cellular telephones that are equipped with a phone card and listed under a false name and address.

“It's very, very difficult to trace,” Royal said. “And there are so many ways to gain information (about potential victims) on the Internet, that allows them to build some kind of profile of the individual.”

Royal advised focusing on protecting yourself from these kinds of scams by verifying information before sending money.

“Call the grandson, call the jail — but don't rely on the phone numbers you were given,” he said. “Go online or use the phone system.”

Canadian Bail Money Granny Scam

An increasingly common scam, taking the form of a grandchild calling from jail for bail money, has emerged in an unscrupulous attempt to bilk senior citizens out of their money.

Police Departments have received several reports of people claiming to be a grandchild or someone representing a grandchild in jail asking for money to be sent for bail charges in Canada.

Scam uses caller claiming to be relative in jail who needs money

By Heidi Rowley - Staff writer -
California 03/27/04

"Do you know who this is?" said the voice on the other end of the line.

It was about 11:30 a.m. Monday and Dorothy Carmichael, 87, was unaware that she would be one of at least four Exeter women called that day with the same greeting.

She guessed her grandson's name.

"It sounds to me like it's my grandson Mark," Carmichael said she told him. "I haven't heard from you in a while."

He apologized for not calling her sooner and then explained why he was calling.

"Grandma, I'm in a lot of trouble," the voice said. "I got arrested. I'm in jail."

He explained that he had hit a car in a parking lot in Modesto and "left the scene of a crime." He was later arrested in Turlock and needed money or else he would be in jail until Thursday, he told Carmichael.

Next, a man saying he was a bail bondsman got on the phone to verify that she would be sending the money, almost $500, by Western Union. He also asked to verify Mark's last name, which she gave him.

"I've never had anything like this happen before, so I guess I was quite gullible in giving the name out," Car-michael said after she realized it was a scam.

"I was all getting dressed and ready to go into town because I didn't want him to spend time in jail," she said.

But instead, she called her daughter, Jan Landes, who lives in Visalia. Landes called her son Mark at work, where she found he had been all day.

Luckily, Carmichael learned that she was being scammed before sending the money. Three other Exeter residents weren't as lucky.

Exeter police Lt. Paul Gomez said officers received reports Monday from two elderly women who had received the same phone call. Both sent money.

Sheriff's Lt. Bob Masterson said the Sheriff's Department also received a call on Monday from another elderly woman in Exeter who received the same call. She also learned after sending more than $500 that it was a scam.

Gomez said one of the other victims didn't realize she had been scammed until her "grandson," who she had just talked to, didn't show up at her house as promised.

"He said he was going to drive from Stockton to her house," Gomez said. "When he didn't show up, she called him at work."

Like Carmichael's grandson, he had also been at work all day.

"These elderly ladies just have to check with their relatives before they send any money," Gomez said.

But Carmichael worries that her generation can easily succumb to these types of scams.

"In my generation, you didn't have this kind of stuff, so you're more trusting," she said.

Carmichael said she was suspicious of the phone call, but her worry for her grandson nearly overshadowed her doubts.

Fake Grandsons Scamming Elderly For Money
-  Callers Pretend To Be Victim's Grandson

06-07-04 LOS ANGELES -- About 20 elderly residents were tricked into wiring money to a "grandson," who called them with a story of being in a traffic accident and needing money for bail, a sheriff's official said today.

About half the victims who sent the sums of money -- typically $480 but up to $800 -- were residents of Leisure World in Laguna Woods, Calif., said Jim Amormino of the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

"The caller will say, 'It's your grandson, don't you recognized your grandson?'" Amormino said, noting that the con involves an "appeal to the emotions" of the elderly victims.

The male caller says that he has been involved in an accident and needs money for bail, but urges the victim not to tell his parents, Amormino said.

Typically, the victims wired the money to Western Union, which does not require identification from a person receiving less than $1,000, he said.

The victims usually learn they've been conned when they call later to inquire about their kin's recent "accident," and learn that there wasn't one, Amormino said.

Western Union does not keep its surveillance tape for long, so it is usually discarded by the time the person realizes they were victimized, Amormino said.

Authorities believe that several people are members of a ring operating the scam. They may identify victims by looking in the telephone book for people with "old-fashioned sounding" names, Amormino said.

If a person does not have a grandson, the caller just goes on to the next name on their list, Amormino said.

Some of the people contacted checked first before sending the money, but about 20 sent the funds, Amormino said.

The last reported case was May 24, Amormino said, but authorities believe there are others out there who either are unaware they were victimized or did not report it.

Grandma Scam Fraud Victim

11/08 - (PA) - Police are warning residents about a scam begging grandparents to send money for a grandchild who, the scam artist says, is in trouble in Canada.

A caller asked a Mount Holly Springs woman to go to a Wal-Mart and send a $2,300 MoneyGram to her "grandson" who had been in a crash in Canada, according to Mount Holly Springs Police Chief Darrell Goodhart. The caller said he would call her cell phone later and tell her where to send the MoneyGram.

The woman called police who located her grandson, a Marine stationed in Maryland, Goodhart said.

The attempted scam is similar to a fraud that caught several victims in Fairmont, Minn., he said. A caller pretends to be a grandson and gave the correct name of the relative. The caller claims to have been in an accident that he wants to keep from his parents. When the grandparent questions the caller about his strange voice, he states he has a cold or stresses in a panic that he has just been in a crash. The victims are to go to the nearest Wal-Mart and wire money.

A MoneyGram can be picked up anywhere in the world, no matter what location the sender writes on the receipt, Goodhart said.

Other variations include the scam artist claiming to be a Canadian police officer or hospital official, he said.

Investigation of these frauds typically cross international borders which make prosecution unlikely and recovery of money nearly impossible, Goodhart said. Independent verification of a family member's welfare and location typically can be made with a few telephone calls.


Canadian Granny Scam Dupes Grandparents Helping Bogus Grandkids

11/08 - (GRAND HAVEN, MI) - It started with a phone call from someone they thought was their teenage grandson.

As the story went, he was in Canada with friends. He'd been caught fishing without a license. He needed $3,000 to pay the fine. And, by the way, he said: Please don't let his parents know he was in trouble.

What followed was a series of phone calls -- up to five or six a day over a six-day period -- from "police," describing their "grandson's" escalating troubles.

Before it was over, the elderly couple had wired $33,000 of their life savings to Canada -- money they don't expect to ever see again.

The Grand Haven couple, who did not want to be identified, had fallen victim to a con so common it has a name: "the grandparent scam."

Like many others who've been duped, they were victimized by their love of their grandchildren, their trusting nature and their lack of knowledge about such scams.

"We had never heard of this. We want people to know this is going on," the grandmother said. "They can't do these things to people who are in their 80s."

The Internet is full of warnings about the scam. State attorneys general, organizations like the Better Business Bureau, newspapers and TV stations from coast to coast have all warned to be wary of calls of distress from grandchildren.

Yet many people apparently still are falling victim.

In the Grand Haven couple's case, the teen's fictional troubles started with a fishing violation, which led to the alleged discovery of drugs in the teenagers' boat. According to the phone calls, the grandson was then jailed and needed bail money.

The scam finally unraveled when they felt so bad about leaving the boy's parents in the dark, they urged him to come clean.

They called their grandson's cell phone and left a message. They told him to call his parents and tell them everything.

The grandson, a high school senior in Florida, subsequently heard the message and told his family that something was wrong.


Grandchild Scam, Assistance Scam, Grandkid Hoax Scam

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