The grandparents scam

If you’ve got a telephone and children or grandchildren, you’ve also got a bull’s-eye on your back. Or more precisely, your purse or wallet. The scam artists target your most vulnerable area: Your kids and their kids.

Friday’s column was about a friend named Gordon, a retired Nuclear Regulatory Commission engineer-executive. He got a call two weeks ago from what he thought was his grandson Jack. Jack lives and goes to school in Northern Virginia. My friend lives across the Potomac River in Maryland.

“Jack” said he had been arrested for DUI. He explained that he needed $2,800 wired to the court or he would spend the night (at least) in the lockup. Gordon headed off to get the cash, then find a place where he could wire the funds to the court. Jack’s court-appointed “attorney” advised Gordon how the procedure works. Even got a continuation when Gordon was having trouble finding a place that would wire the exact amount. Bottom line: It was a scam.

Jack didn’t call his grandfather, although it appeared to be his voice. There was no DUI. And besides, you don’t normally wire money to a court.

So how did the scammers capture Jack’s voice? And how did they know who his grandfather is, and his phone number? Don’t know, but we heard from lots of people who said it’s happened to them. Or a friend or relative.

To read the full column, click here:

When your grandson needs bail money, be careful

Libby C, of Mechanicsville, Virginia, said:

“Wow. This is scary. Bet you got lots of hits and shares.”

For sure! For example:

“I read your article and wanted to bring a similar incident to your attention, as I wonder if someone is really recording conversations to know about the relationships and their weak spots.

My cousin’s mother-in-law received a phone call from my cousin’s son-in-law with the exact same story. His MIL is not connected to government, never worked, and is a housewife. She is called ‘Nani’ (Hindi word for mother’s mom) by my cousin’s daughter and her husband. Anyway, the call came, she was told the same story as in your article, voice didn’t match and an excuse was made that his nose was broken that impacted his sound, etc. In this case, the grandmother did wire the money and didn’t tell anyone about it. About a week later, she ran into my cousin’s son-in-law and noticed he had no visible markings (nose broken) on his face and looked fine. She hesitantly asked him about his condition and obviously, he had no knowledge of this and was completely ignorant about the phone call. She then shared the story about the phone call and money she wired.

I am still at a loss on how these scam artists are making these connections. Do you happen to know if the friend you referenced in the article has a VoIP (Voice Over IP) phone service? That’s one possible area I can see where the calls might be monitored as they go through a service provider. Just a hunch.

Thanks for your article.”

—S.B.


“The grandson scam happened to my 89-year-old father this last year. He wears hearing aids and has great difficulty on the phone. The fake grandson said he was in jail because he was in a friend’s car when the friend got pulled over and arrested for marijuana possession. He said it was just a marijuana cigarette. The grandson said it wasn’t his weed, and he would be cleared of any misconduct after the trial, but he needed bail money.

Grandpa had heard about the scam, so he played around with his fake grandson caller. He asked about how he has been lately and how his work has been going, receiving very general responses. Grandpa went on to ask a lot of questions about the friend and suggested that since the fake grandson would be cleared of any misconduct, instead of getting out of jail, maybe he should spend the next day in jail thinking about who his friends are and how they behave and whether he should be driving around with friends carrying marijuana. The scammer grandson eventually got tired of talking and disconnected.”

—E.Y.


“I heard this on the radio this morning and then read the column . I wanted to tell you that this happened to my parents, who are in their 80s.

They received a call one night saying that their grandson had been arrested for a DWI in Miami (they didn’t know why he would be in Miami. He lives in Northern Virginia). An “attorney” asked for $2,800 (the same exact amount you mentioned in your article) to be wired to him for bail.

My parents are old-school people and pretty hard line, though. They told the ‘lawyer’ that if their grandson got himself into trouble, he could get himself out, and hung up.
Subsequently talking to their granddaughter about her brother, they find out he had NEVER been in Miami.

I suppose there are many ways someone could find out they had a grandson.
A recent obituary in the newspaper listed our family and relationships. We won’t be listing family relationships again.

Those websites that ID people list associated or related people, but not the exact relationship. You can pay to find out, but crooks rarely pay. I suppose it could be inferred.
I am really glad you posted this article. Thank you — I hope it helps others.

My parents are not poor, but losing $2,800 would still have been a devastating blow to them. Just being ripped off would be devastating to my Dad. He doesn’t want to be vulnerable or foolish.

These creeps. Horrible.”
Sara

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Jory Heckman

A convicted scam artist once advertised selling a “solar-powered clothes dryer” for $49.95. What customers received, however, was a clothesline.

Source: Wikipedia

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