There’s nothing worse than this four-letter word — scam. And that’s what is making the rounds in North Texas. It’s not hitting the millennials, but it’s using them as bait. It’s called the Grandparent Phone Scam and is gnarly.
The grandperson gets a call from a lawyer reporting that his/her grandchild has been in an accident in another town. One ruse is that the grandchild only suffered a broken nose and was T-boned by another driver, a pregnant woman. The good news is that neither sustained life-threatening injuries.
However, a person claiming to be a public defender tells the grandparent that the grandchild was arrested due to scoring a DUI because of his/her having taken NyQuil. To get the innocent munchkin out of jail and have the whole thing expunged, the grandparent must send a specific amount of cash in the four figures to the “First Offenders Fund.” The caller then says that the grandchild doesn’t want the grandparent to tell his/her parents due to embarrassment.
This scam has hit other areas of the country. One fellow, who was in a layover in Pennsylvania, was on a call with his father discussing the call. Upon completion of the call, a woman nearby apologized that she couldn’t help overhearing the conversation and reported that both of her parents had been contacted by such a ruse. One fell for it; the other didn’t.
In the past these scam artists have arranged to have funds wired. Now, they’re asking for cash to be mailed. According to the FTC, “If you’ve mailed cash, report it right away to the Postal Service or whichever shipping company you used. Some people have been able to stop delivery by acting quickly and giving a tracking number. Also tell the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint.
The FTC also recommends:
- Don’t act right away, no matter how dramatic the story is.
- Call that family member or friend, and make sure you use a phone number that you know is right. Or check it out with someone else in your circle, even if the caller told you to keep it a secret.
- Be careful about what you post on social media. If your personal details are public, someone can use them to defraud you and people who care about you.
And the NCL’s Fraud Center has some tips:
- Beware of any urgent solicitation of funds, especially if it is needed to pay for unexpected bills, such as bail money, lawyer’s fees, or doctor bills
- Before sending funds, independently contact the relative (or parent of the relative) the scam artist is claiming to be (or represent) at a known phone number to verify the details of the story.
- Scam artist’s payment method of choice is the wire transfer. Any urgent request to wire money should be treated suspiciously.
- Be aware that fraudsters attempting the Grandparent Scam may call late at night to confuse potential victims.
- Consumers who have been victims of this scam should immediately report it to local law enforcement, their state attorney general and NCL’s Fraud Center at Fraud.org.
Also, create a code word for your family. If such a call comes in, ask for the code word. If the caller says that the grandchild is unable to provide it, then tell them that evidently the situation is much more serious than they described. Call the child’s parents and/or child.
This nasty scam has hit other areas of the country. Let’s shut the door before they have a chance to make real inroads in North Texas.