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Police warn about scam targeting elderly, grandparents

Updated: Monday, January 20 2014, 05:23 PM CST
Posted by: Lauren Gross

HUMMELSTOWN -- Hummelstown police have recently recieved a number of complaints from resident who have been contacted by scammers attempting the "Grandparents Scam."

The police urge people to review the information below and don't become a victim.

The scam targets grandparents by having an imposter call or e-mail them, pretending to be a grandchild who has been arrested in another country and need money wired quickly to pay bail. The faux grandchild urges the victim not call the grandchild's parents at the risk of upsetting them. 

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has been receiving reports about this scam since 2008, but now the scam and scam artists have become more sophisticated.

Thanks to the Internet and social networking sites, a criminal can sometimes uncover personal information about their targets, which makes the impersonations more believable. For example, the actual grandson may mention on his social networking site that he’s a photographer who often travels to Mexico.

When contacting the grandparents, the phony grandson will say he’s calling from Mexico, where someone stole his camera equipment and passport.

Common scenarios 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.

• Military families have also 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.

Advice to avoid being victimized:
• Resist the pressure to act quickly.

• 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.
Police warn about scam targeting elderly, grandparents

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