Midland man falls victim to the ‘grandparent scam’–don’t let this happen to you!

ID-10043587I miss my grandparents. They were always ready to help out when we got in a bind. It makes me so angry when I think of someone ripping them off. Unfortunately, there are people out there who will not think twice about taking advantage of a grandparent’s generous nature.

One of the nastiest tricks con artists can play is the so-called “grandparent scam.” In this scam, a caller impersonates the victim’s grandchild and pretends to be in some kind of trouble where he or she needs a lot of money quickly.

The scam artist convinces the victim to wire a payment, which is gone forever. Meanwhile, the real grandchild is safe and sound. We’ve talked about that scam in the past on WatchYourBuck. It’s pretty persistent.

Your BBB got a call yesterday from a man in Midland who got taken by this scam and lost $2,000. There’s probably no way he can get his money back now, so at this point he just wants to spread the warning so others won’t fall for the same scam.

Last Thursday, he got a call from someone who said, “Hi, Grandpa.”

“I didn’t recognize the voice,” he said. “But that’s what my grandchildren call me–not Grandfather, but Grandpa. He said, ‘Do you know who this is?’ Then I made a mistake. I said my grandson’s name and he said, ‘Yeah, it is.'”

The fake grandson said he had been celebrating a friend’s upcoming wedding and had been drinking. The “grandson” said he took the keys away from his friend, who was too drunk to drive, drove the car himself and got into an accident.

The friend supposedly had a broken femur, while the “grandson” had a broken nose and split lip. The police took the “grandson” to jail for DUI, but–good luck–the friend’s father was a lawyer who had spoken to the judge and could get the charges dismissed for $4,000. The “lawyer” had pitched in $2,000 and he only needed $2,000 more.

The fake lawyer got on the phone with the victim and convinced him to go to a CVS and purchase a $2,000 Greendot card, then call back. “My landline would not complete the call. My cellphone did. It was a strange area code. I called and he said it was a secure number at the courthouse. I gave him the scratch-off number from the card. He asked me to verify the address and phone number and he would FedEx me some court papers.”

The scammer did indeed send a FedEx package with some papers–with the information the victim had given over the phone. And that was the last contact the victim had with the “lawyer.” “I kept hoping it was not a scam,” he said.

Finally, he started to think he’d been had and called the grandson’s mother. “She said my grandson was at work, but she had seen him recently and he had not been in a wreck. He had not missed work or been in jail.”

After that, he called the police, who were unable to help. He filled out a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and called Better Business Bureau to warn others about the scam.

BBB offers these tips to avoid becoming victim to a grandparent scam:

  • Resist the pressure to act quickly. Don’t let a potential scammer push you into sending money before you verify the situation.
  • Be skeptical. Ask questions only the grandchild could know the answer to, without revealing too much personal information yourself. Ask the name of a pet, a favorite dish or what school they attend. Your loved one should not get angry about you being too cautious.
  • Verify information. Check with the parents to see if their child is really travelling as they say they are.
  • Don’t wire money. Never use a transfer service to send money to someone you haven’t met in person, or for an emergency you haven’t verified is real.
  • Stay private. Check your privacy settings on all your social media sites. Scammers often make their stories more believable by trolling for information on Facebook, Twitter and similar sites.
  • Know where to turn. If you fall victim to a scam, report the incident immediately to local police and your state Attorney General’s office.
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