“Grandma, what a big bank account you have.”
Predators, hungry as wolves, are targeting elderly in the area with a con known as the “grandma scam.”
With blood being thicker than water, swindlers are taking advantage of the elderly family and posing as family members using information commonly available on the Internet.
Local police have reported that several incidents have occurred where someone posing as a relative calls an elderly person stating they need money for an emergency. In a few cases, some were thwarted by sharp thinking store clerks and relatives.
In recent cases the scammer states they are a grandson, occasionally using an actual name, in need of money to get out of jail.
In May, Oakdale Police responded to CVS Pharmacy when a savvy clerk questioned why an 80-year-old woman was purchasing over $1,000 for GreenDot.com prepaid debit cards. The woman told them “her grandson” called and needed bail money.
According to Oakdale Police Sergeant Joe Johnson, the CVS clerk sensed something fishy and notified Oakdale Police who responded and spoke to the woman and prevented the crime from being accomplished.
Johnson said a number of similar incidents have been reported, and that does not include those too embarrassed to come forward or who are unaware a crime occurred in the first place.
Perpetrators of the so-called "grandma scam" found a willing and loving victim when they targeted Angelina Moore’s mother of Oakdale, who fell victim to the same rip-off on June 18.
Using the same ruse, a caller said he was the woman’s grandson and needed $4,000 to use as bail to get out of jail. He instructed her to go to K-Mart and purchase Green Dot cards and he would call back so she could provide him the card number and PIN code.
Moore’s mother complied and later found there was no arrest or incarceration of her grandson when she later called him to find out if he was all right, but only after being bilked out of the cash.
“My mother was victimized,” Moore said. “She’s just sick with this. It was a lot of money to lose.”
Moore said her mother reported the incident to police, but when tracing the card numbers they found the money had been immediately withdrawn with no viable leads for the suspect.
These con men are often outside the country, making it virtually impossible to track them down and prosecute them for their crimes.
“I’ve told her, ‘Mom, don’t fall for this stuff,’” Moore said.
Escalon Police Chief Milt Medeiros stated his city has seen a few of the “grandma scams” in the last six to eight months, but the caller was having the money wired to Western Union.
“What they don’t realize is anyone with an ID can pick up the money and it doesn’t have to be at the exact Western Union outlet it was sent to,” Medeiros said. “People have to realize a lot of personal information is out of the Internet that criminals can use.”
Medeiros emphasized that jails won’t call relatives for bail or have money wired, especially with accepting pre-paid debit cards.
This week the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce put out a “Merchant Alert Notification” advising local businesses of the scam and to be aware of elderly persons purchasing large dollar amounts on Green Dot prepaid debit cards.
Some tips on Avoiding Scams.
· Let your elderly loved ones know this scam exists.
· Ask the caller detailed questions nobody but the real person would know.
· If a relative calls in a panic and wants money wired, tell your parents to verify the story by calling another relative. If the caller says to keep it a secret, that's a red flag.
· Check the caller's number. Overseas or out-of-state calls are a common indicator of scams.
· Hang up and call the person back at their home or cell number. If the family member is at home, he's obviously not in jail.
· Have someone else in the family check out the story no matter what.
What to Do If a Senior Loved One is a Victim
· Call the bank or company immediately to stop payment.
· Call the police right away and tell them what happened.
· If the money is still being processed, the person attempting the theft may be waiting on the transfer and could be apprehended.
· Don’t be embarrassed you’ve been victimized. Please report all of these activities to police