Saturday, February 4, 2012

If Grandkids Call for Money - Grandparent Scam

Would your grandkids call you
if they were in trouble?
Last weekend a close friend of mine received a terrifying call from her grandson, who lives in another state.  He had rear-ended a car containing tourists from another country, and he had a sealed bottle of vodka in the car when it happened.  He was in a heap of trouble.

My friend asked her grandson details about what had happened.  He told her he had hired an attorney, and he was at the courthouse with his lawyer trying to get everything sorted out.  My friend asked to speak to her grandson's attorney.  The attorney explained what was happening, the charges he was facing, and what the judge felt her grandson should do in order to reimburse the people he had rear-ended for their out-of-pocket expenses.

After talking with the attorney, my friend got back on the phone with her grandson, and asked what she could do to help.  He told her he needed $4000 to be sent to the tourists, to cover their expenses.  Then the charges would be dropped.  He had not been drinking the vodka, and he had passed the sobriety test.  He just needed to cover the expenses.  He was very upset and embarrassed.  He begged her not to tell other members of the family, including his parents.  After discussing the situation more with the lawyer and the prosecuting attorney, to be certain that the charges would be dropped, my friend discussed the situation with her husband.  Then, she and her husband went to her bank, removed $4000, took it to a Western Union office, and had the money wired to the "victims," who were now back home in the Dominican Republic.

The entire incident was part of the well-known GRANDPARENT SCAM!

My friend lost her entire $4000, despite the fact that both she and her husband had read about money transfer scams in our local newspaper.  She simply didn't connect the financial scams reported in the newspaper with the situation she was facing with her grandson.

Once she realized she had been cheated, she reported the case to the local Sheriff's Department and the FBI, but there was nothing they could do to help her.  All the calls originated from outside the US.  The money was wired to another country.  Her grandson had not been involved in an accident; he doesn't even own a car. He was happy and busy doing other things on the morning when all this was transpiring.  He had even called that morning and proudly left them a message about a new job.  However, they were so busy with the money transfer, they didn't listen to the messages on their answering machine.

How to Recognize the Grandparent Scam

When my friend thinks back on the call, she realizes that her supposed "grandson" simply said "grandma" when she picked up the phone.  Then she responded by saying his first name.  He was upset during the call, so it was difficult to recognize his voice.  Besides, she really didn't talk with him on the phone all that often, so she wasn't sure she would have known whether or not it was him, even if he hadn't been pretending to be upset and stressed.

Despite his request to not tell anyone, my friend and her husband should have called other relatives to check on their grandson.  Even if their grandson really was in trouble, taking an extra hour to help him would not have made a difference ... and would have given them an opportunity to check everything out.  These people work in teams, often with several different people available to talk to you on the phone.  You need to get completely independent confirmation before trusting anyone who calls you.

We have already told our own children and grandchildren to not get their feelings hurt if they ever call us for money and we tell them we will call them back later ... after we have had a chance to make a few confirming phone calls.  They understand.

The Grandparents Scam Can Happen to Anyone

In case you think these types of scams couldn't happen to you, my friend is a retired teacher; her husband, who was involved in the decision and helped her wire the money, is a retired parole officer who worked for the Sheriff's Department.  They are both intelligent, very conservative and suspicious of strange phone calls.  Neither one suffers from dementia or any other health condition that would have made them easy marks.  They have a grown daughter who is a lawyer, but they didn't consult her before sending the money.  They didn't try calling their grandson on his cell phone.  They didn't try calling other family members to see if they had heard from their grandson.  Despite all their natural reservations, they fell for this scam hook, line and sinker.

My friend knows that I am making a blog post about this financial scam. We took a long walk at the beach this morning as she relayed the story to me.  She was understandably upset with herself, and angry at the loss of her money.  She also felt powerless to do anything about it.  However, she was adamant that she wanted to do whatever she could to keep it from happening to anyone else, so she asked me to post a fraud alert.  Feel free to forward this post to your friends, in the hope that we can prevent others from becoming victims of money transfer scams and other retirement scams, as well.

Although she isn't sure why they contacted her, the authorities told her that the scammers often target residents of over 55 communities, such as the one where we live.  They also scour Facebook for older people who show photos or mention teenage grandchildren on the site.  These money transfer scams are well-planned, and organized by groups of swindlers who do a lot of research to make their phone calls seem real.

Don't let the grandparent's scam happen to you!

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photo courtesy of morguefile.com

2 comments:

  1. This is a horrible scam. What makes it worse is always how gullible the duped person feels afterward. Thanks for sharing this.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, my friend felt very gullible and was upset with herself once she realized she had been duped. It was such an elaborate hoax ... obviously involving several people and more than one phone number. The fact that there are groups like this out there trying to trick vulnerable people is horrible. Thank you so much for your comment.

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