Scam targets grandparents

PHILADELPHIA - October 17, 2008 - The Better Business Bureau issued an urgent warning about it Friday.

Already an 86-year-old woman has been taken for more than $13,000, a 71-year-old woman for $4500.

This scam is very personal. It involves con artists who pretend to be your family members needing your help and your money.

"I don't think I'm any dummy. I know better than to send money to someone who calls out of the blue and doesn't identify themselves," said Nancy Jones of Broomall, PA.

But when Nancy Jones got a call from someone claiming to be her grandson Chris, she wasn't suspicious.

"He said 'Grandma, do you think there's any way you could send me $2800?' Jones said.

Nancy didn't question his request for money, especially because he seemed to know details about Chris that a stranger might not.

"There was a lot of noise in the background. I really could not tell it wasn't Chris," said Jones.

The caller claimed he'd been put in a holding cell by wildlife officials in Canada for fishing without a license.

He said he needed the $2,800 to pay the fine and bail.

So Nancy wired the cash via Moneygram, then called her grandson to make sure the transaction had gone smoothly.

"I said I wanted to know did you get the money I sent. He said 'What money, Grandma? What are you talking about?'"

That's when Nancy realized she had been scammed.

"It is a scam, we see it all the time. We've had people give over $8,000 on two different events," said Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett.

Law enforcement officials have seen a recent uptick in this scam. The perpetrators first targeted seniors in Southwestern Pennsylvania then moved across the state.

And beware, the fishing story is just one of many they try to use.

For instance, another bogus call for help involves a family member who supposedly got in a car accident.

Unfortunately, as Nancy now knows, these perpetrators are difficult to track down. It's rare victims ever see their money again.

"I think it's gone for good.. I'd love to get it back but I really doubt it," said Jones.

But Nancy is banking on the hope that others can learn from her expensive lesson.

"Lesson learned is right. That's why I want to warn everybody, don't fall for this even though you think it's a family member. Get some kind of positive proof.

Also, don't be misled by facts that someone may know about you or your family.

There's a lot of information posted online these days. So you need to ask the caller a very specific, personal question to which only they would know the answer.

And if you get a call from someone asking you for money, hang up and call that family member directly, dialing the number you know is theirs.

For more information:

Better Business Bureau

Attorney General's website

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