The caller said, “Hi Grandma, this is your grandson Tom. I’m in Florida and I was in an accident and arrested for drunk driving. I need $2,500 for bail. Please don’t tell my parents.”
But the grandmother did call Tom’s mother who related that Tom could not possibly be in Florida since he was currently at work in Garner Valley. When Tom learned of the scam attempt, he drove
The problem is, Tom who was at work in Garner Valley, decided to drive over to his Grandma’s house to let her know he was OK and not in Florida. “While he [Tom] was there, Grandma received another call from a man saying he was a lawyer. He instructed her to go to the bank and wire the money to a place in San Francisco,” explained Shawna Bloom, Tom’s mother.
Bloom notified the Town Crier. “I want people to know that this is happening so that no one else suffers the grief this scam can cause,” she said. Since Bloom relayed her story to friends, she has heard of four or five other instances where the scam was attempted.
And the scam is not isolated to telephone calls, said Bloom, “My daughter got an email saying her sister-in-law was in an accident and needed $3,000.”
What is additionally troublesome is the fact that the caller seems to have a lot of information about the person they target. “My Mom doesn’t even go on the computer, so I don’t know how [the scammers] were able to get in touch with her and how they knew my son’s name,” said Bloom. “It is very unsettling.”
Several states have issued consumer warnings. At www.takecharge.ca.gov is a list of scams, how they work and how a person should prepare themself. The scams are listed in alphabetical order and the list is a long one — dating service, fake check scam, forensic scam, office supply scam, reshipping scam, Twitter-for-money scam and unlicensed contractor scam, for instance.
The grandparent scam, the site explains: “A scammer contacts an elderly person and claims to be a grandchild who needs cash because of a recent automobile accident, hospitalization, arrest or other unfortunate event. The scammer often states that they are allowed only that one phone call. The elderly person is asked to wire, overnight mail or courier money immediately and to keep the call a secret from the other family members to reduce embarrassment. The scammer pockets the money and disappears.”
The Consumer Federation of America (www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/Grandparent-Scam-Tips.pdf) offers tips on protection from the grandparent scam: “If you realize you’ve been scammed, what can you do? These scammers ask you to send money through services such as Western Union and MoneyGram because they can pick it up quickly, in cash. They often use phony IDs, so it’s impossible to trace them. Contact the money transfer service immediately to report the scam. If the money hasn’t been picked up yet, you can retrieve it, but if it has, it’s not like a check that you can stop — the money is gone.”
If contacted via email: “Use a firewall and anti-virus and anti‐spyware software. Many computers come with these features already built‐in. They are also easy to find on the Internet. Keep your software updated. Don’t open attachments in emails from strangers, since they can contain programs that enable crooks to get into your computer remotely.”
More actions to take: “If you get a call or email from someone claiming to know you and asking for help, check to confirm that it’s legitimate before you send any money. Ask some questions that would be hard for an imposter to answer correctly — the name of the person’s pet, for example, or the date of their mother’s birthday. Contact the person who they claim to be directly. If you can’t reach the person, contact someone else — a friend or relative of the person. Don’t send money unless you’re sure it’s the real person you know. For more information about protecting yourself from fraud, go to www.consumerfed.org/fraud.”
A variation of the grandparent scam involves a caller claiming to be traveling in another country with a friend and involved in an accident or other legal infraction. The caller then asks for bail money to be wired to a Western Union account. A second scammer then contacts the target pretending to be law enforcement or an employee of the U.S. Embassy or consulate. In this instance, contact the State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747 to verify if the situation is legitimate or a scam.
On Oct. 22 the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) issued a warning to taxpayers that the FTB likeness was being used as part of a scam targeting the elderly. Scammers are contacting elderly people in Beverly Hills claiming that they received a red light traffic ticket several months prior and that it has been referred to the FTB for collection. Victims are instructed to send money, in the form of a prepaid debit card, to be sent to a bogus address. The scammers go so far as to refer victims to an actual FTB phone number. Taxpayers who receive a questionable contact should call FTB at 800-852-5711. Denise Azimi of the Public Affairs Office of the FTB cautions, “If you receive a questionable solicitation, contact FTB immediately and talk to a live agent to review your account,” said State Controller and FTB Chair John Chiang. “Taxpayers should protect their personal information and treat any unsolicited phone calls or emails with caution.”
“I think what these scammers are doing is horrible,” said Bloom. “If this helps even one person avoid being taken advantage of, I will be happy.”