Oceanside CA– It is called the ‘Grandparents Scam’ and it has been around, in one form or another since, at least, 2008 but the scams are getting more sophisticated. Thieves are using social media and stolen personal information along with the grandparents love for their grandchildren to bilk the elderly victim out of thousands of dollars.
There are over 127,000 reported variations of the imposter phone scams and very few prosecutions. The scam usually involves a caller telling the grandparent that their grandchild is in trouble.
A recent case, the victim received a call on his birthday saying his grandson was in jail. The person calling knew it was the victims birthday. They also knew details about the grandson such as place of employment and where the grandson lives. The caller ID had been manipulated to show “Precinct 7” They briefly let the victim speak with who, was supposedly, the grandson but the connection was poor. The imposter pleaded with the victim not to tell his mother at which time someone calling himself Harold Walcott got on the line and said bail was set and they need $2,500 to get the ball rolling. He told the victim the best way to transfer the money was to purchase a Green Dot Money Pak pre-paid debit cards, call back and they would transfer the money from the cards to the bail. Unfortunately, the victim did just that. The police were called and a claim was put into Green Dot Money Pak about the fraudulent transaction but chances are very small the victim will ever see their money again and the chance there will be a prosecution is just as small.
The perpetrators of the cowardly act which preys on the elderly, are brave in their anonymity and brazen with the knowledge that there is little chance they will get caught. When the victims daughter called the number, they told her she was stupid. They are still answering the phone at the number 1-514-623-3314 given to victim and you can hear the phone call that OsideNews placed to the scammers below:
Other common scenarios listed on the FBI website include:
- A grandparent receives a phone call (or sometimes an e-mail) from a “grandchild.” If it is a phone call, it’s often late at night or early in the morning when most people aren’t thinking that clearly. Usually, the person claims to be traveling in a foreign country and has gotten into a bad situation, like being arrested for drugs, getting in a car accident, or being mugged…and needs money wired ASAP. And the caller doesn’t want his or her parents told.
- Sometimes, instead of the “grandchild” making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer, a doctor at a hospital, or some other person. And we’ve also received complaints about the phony grandchild talking first and then handing the phone over to an accomplice…to further spin the fake tale.
- We’ve also seen military families victimized: after perusing a soldier’s social networking site, a con artist will contact the soldier’s grandparents, sometimes claiming that a problem came up during military leave that requires money to address.
- While it’s commonly called the grandparent scam, criminals may also claim to be a family friend, a niece or nephew, or another family member.
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 10.8 percent of adults in the United Sates were victims of phone scams in 2011 alone. That is 25.6 million people and with many victims getting scammed thousands of dollars each, that adds up to real money even by Washington D.C. standards. Many of the crimes are not reported because the victims are too embarrassed to acknowledge they were scammed but with the sophistication of the scammers, even very careful people are being taken.
Legitimate companies that are being used in the frauds such as Green Dot Money Pak and Western Union don’t want to testify to the Congressional committees but do have links on their websites on how to avoid such schemes.That is of little help to a generation that tends not to be internet savvy.
The advice from the FBI on how to avoid scammers is:
- Resist the pressure to act quickly.
- Set up a code or safe word with your grand-kids that you can use to confirm their identity
- Try to contact your grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate.
- Never wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an e-mail…especially overseas. Wiring money is like giving cash—once you send it, you can’t get it back.
If you have been approached, call your local police department first. You can find out more about the “Grandparent Scam” on the FBI website [Link] along with links to report the scam if you have been a victim.