An elderly Greendale man lost $1,700 when he fell victim to a “grandparent scam."
The 85-year-old man reported to on Aug. 29 that someone scammed him, by pretending to be his grandchild.
The man told police the person who called him claimed to be his grandson, calling from Peru. The caller said he needed the money to get home. Believing his grandson to be in trouble, the man went to his bank and sent the money via Western Union.
The man received a second call asking for another $1,700. He again went to the bank, however, after he left the bank he became suspicious, and stopped payment on the check because he felt it was a scam.
This Greendale man was a victim of a scam that happening all over the country. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, this type of scam gained so much traction that it has been dubbed “the grandparent scam.”
The “grandparent scam” has been around for a few years. The Internet Crime Complaint Center has been receiving reports since 2008. Over the years scam artists have become more sophisticated by using Internet and social networking sites to learn about their victims.
Greendale Police Chief Robert Malasuk said that since 2008 there has been a 12 percent increase in elder financial abuse across the country, resulting in over $2.9 billion in losses.
“Unfortunately more criminals are targeting seniors,” Malasuk said. “They (seniors) are the fastest-growing segment of the population, and they often appear to be easy targets. The demographics of an aging population and the sophistication of these scammers is adding up to large losses for the victims. “
Another 83-year-old Seattle man fell victim to the “grandparent scam” and wired more than $84,000 to someone claiming to be his grandson in a Georgia jail, according to a Seattle Times article.
Here are some common scenarios from FBI reports:
- A grandparent receives a phone call (or sometimes an e-mail) from a “grandchild.” If it is phone call, it’s often late at night or early in the morning when most people aren’t thinking that clearly. Usually, the person claims to be traveling in a foreign country and has gotten into a bad situation, like being arrested for drugs, getting in a car accident, or being mugged…and needs money wired ASAP. And the caller doesn’t want his or her parents told.
- Sometimes, instead of the “grandchild” making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer, a doctor at a hospital, or some other person. And we’ve also received complaints about the phony grandchild talking first and then handing the phone over to an accomplice…to further spin the fake tale.
- We’ve also seen military families victimized: after perusing a soldier’s social networking site, a con artist will contact the soldier’s grandparents, sometimes claiming that a problem came up during military leave that requires money to address.
- While it’s commonly called the "grandparent scam, criminals may also claim to be a family friend, a niece or nephew, or another family member.
The FBI advises people to resist the pressure to act quickly and to contact the grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate.
Malasuk wrote in an email, “NEVER send money to someone you don’t know. If someone is alleging to be representing a friend or family member in trouble contact the Police. If someone is trying to sell you something or offer you a way to make quick money, SAY NO!!! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
For the most part victims suffer substantial money losses. Wiring money is like giving cash away. You don’t get it back.
The FBI doesn’t typically open an investigation because these scams don't usually meet the financial thresholds. If you think you fell victim to this scam the FBI recommends contacting local authorities or state consumer protection agency . They also suggest filing a complaint with IC3. Filing a complaint helps collate and analyzes the data to look for common threads that link complaints and help identify the culprits.
Malasuk will be speaking about safety for seniors at a meet and greet with the Greendale Senior Social Club on Oct. 9. from 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. at . To register call Marge at (414) 421-9530 by 12 p.m. on Oct. 8th.