Within the last two weeks, Financial Crimes detectives have received two cases where residents have fallen victim to what is commonly referred to as the “Grandparent Scam” and have given funds ($5,000 each) to a scammer.
During these two Montgomery County cases, the scammer posed as the victim’s grandchild and stated that he (the “grandchild”) was in jail in another state and needed money from the grandparent to secure a bond appearance. One of the victims was instructed to wire money to a bank account. The other victim received a call from the “grandchild” and then a second call from a scammer posing as the child’s attorney. The “attorney” instructed the victim to go to Best Buy, purchase gift cards, and read the gift cards number to the “attorney” to satisfy payment.
The “Grandparent Scam” is a version of a fraud during which the suspect tells the victim that a family member or friend is in trouble or needs help. Scammers present a variety of emergency situations in these calls, to include a loved one who is in jail, has been in an accident, has been kidnapped, or has been physically hurt. The suspect often states that the event has occurred in another area and that the loved one is unable to talk. To assist in helping the family member or friend, the suspect says that the victim must send money via wire transfer or other fund transfer (ie: pre-paid cards, internet transaction, gift card purchase).
These types of phone scams are not unique to Montgomery County and have been reported in neighboring jurisdictions and around the country.
Please read the following tips on what to do if you receive a telephone call that you believe is a scam:
- Do not provide information over the phone. Scammers often ask leading questions to retrieve information from you. Often, you do not realize that you are giving them valuable information. In both of these recent cases, the scammer began the telephone call with, “Hello Grandma” and, “Do you know who this is?”
- Scammers create a sense of urgency; they state that they are in distress and need money immediately. Slow down and ask the caller for detailed information and a contact number. Tell the caller you will call them back after you verify information.
- Then, attempt to verify the caller’s story by calling family and/or friends. Scammers will often tell the loved one not to tell anyone because he/she is embarrassed about being in the situation.
- Remember that scammers often use a technique called “spoofing.” Spoofing provides a fictitious number to a Caller ID display.
- Do not send money. Beware of anyone asking you to wire money or buy gift cards and provide them with the cards’ information.
- Most importantly, contact police immediately if you believe you are a victim of a telephone scam.