By BILL PIECUCH
For The Vista
Several days ago while chatting with a couple here in Fairfield Glade, the conversation surprisingly revealed a twist on scamming, and this one is close to the hearts of many residents who are also grandparents.
Here is what came of the discussion:
The Fairfield Glade couple has a grandson who resides in Indiana. The grandfather, Clint, (not his real name) was awakened early in the morning. about a week ago. “Grandpa,” the voice said. “This is your favorite grandson. I’m in Mexico.”
“Randy,” Clint said with a big smile, “How are you and what are are you doing in Mexico?”
“I won a radio contest on a local radio show and a trip to Mexico,” the voice exclaimed. “Hey, I have a bit of a problem here, and that’s why I’m calling. But I must tell you that you cannot call my mom or dad, understood? Is that cool with you?
“Sure,” Clint reluctantly replied, “What’s up?
“Randy” said that he was arrested on trumped up drug possession planted by the locals and he was in jail and needed bail money.
Before Clint could reply a gruff voice suddenly barged into the telephone. “Your grandson Randy is in big trouble sir. If you want him back home you had better send some bail money, understand?”
Clint, a veteran, former cop from Chicago, smelled a rat. “I want your name, phone number, email address and more specifics on this whole deal,” he said. The voice on the phone ignored the request by Clint and instead gave him a Western Union address and told him to send $500.
“Now!” the voice said emphatically, “Do you understand?”
Click. The phone went dead.
Clint had three options: Call his daughter and prematurely reveal a scenario that his grandson might wiggle out from under, send money, or do nothing. Clint thought of the incident most of the day before finally calling his daughter. Clint’s daughter was near panic.
“Dad, let me get back to you in a few minutes, OK?” Randy, as it turns out, is a senior at The University of Indiana.
After waiting 20 minutes, Clint’s phone rang. It was his daughter who said Randy was indeed still on campus and assured her that he was fine and nowhere near Mexico!
The grandparent scam has been around for a few years, according the U.S. Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Scam artists have become more sophisticated thanks to the Internet and social networking sites which allow a criminal to uncover personal information about their targets. This enables their story to be more believable.
For example, Randy (the grandson) had mentioned on his social networking site that he had won a trip to Mexico which set the scene for the scam.
Common scenarios include:
A grandparent receives a phone call (or sometimes an e-mail) from a “grandchild.” If it is 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, as per Randy’s plight, and arrested for drugs, getting in a car accident or being mugged and need 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.
Some complaints involve the phony grandchild talking first and then handing the phone over to an accomplice which put further spin the fake tale.
Some military families have been 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 financial losses in these cases, while potentially substantial and usually several thousand dollars per victim, typically do not meet the FBI’s financial thresholds for opening an investigation.
The U.S. Internet Complaint Centers recommends contacting local authorities or state consumer protection agency if you think you’ve been victimized. Resist the pressure to act quickly.