By Robb Hicken,
Better Business Bureau
“It was Captain James Neal,” said the 80-year-old woman from Vale, Ore. “He said ‘Bobby’ was in trouble in Nevada, and I needed to send $5,000 immediately.”
The Nevada Sheriff’s office told her to keep this private, and to take the call in a room away from others. Visibly shaken, she left the room and proceeded to get details on how to transfer the money by going to Walmart.
According to a recent FBI report, the “Grandparent Scam” has been around since 2008, but continues to target an aging population, exploiting the caring emotions of the senior citizens. Scammers impersonate their victims and make up an urgent situation – “I’ve been arrested,” “I’ve been mugged,” “I’m in the hospital” – and target friends and family with urgent pleas for help, and money. In this instance, a grandson was arrested.
A son, who was visiting, overheard the conversation and heard the Vale senior crying. He went into the room and hung up on the Nevada Sheriff’s captain.
BBB called the number, (area code of 855 is a U.S./Canada toll free number) and a clear, American accent answered, “Captain James Neal.” When confronted, he became belligerent, claiming, “You don’t know who you’ve called!” He said he’d never say who he really was, because “for all I know, you are trying to make an attempt on my life.”
Avoid the Grandparent Scam:
• Communicate. Teens should share travel plans with family members before leaving the state or country.
• Share information. Teens should provide the cell phone number and email address of a friend they are traveling with in the case of an emergency. Family members should remind students to be cautious when sharing details about travel plans on social media.
• Know the red flags. Typically, the grandparent receives a frantic phone call from a scammer posing as their grandchild. The “grandchild” explains that he or she has gotten into trouble and needs help, perhaps caused a car accident or was arrested for drug possession. The “grandchild” pleads to the grandparents not to tell his or her parents and asks that they wire thousands of dollars for reasons posting bail, repairing the car, covering lawyer’s fees or even paying hospital bills for a person the grandchild injured in a car accident.
• Ask a personal question, but don’t disclose too much information. If a grandparent receives a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild in distress, BBB advises that the grandparent not disclose any information before confirming that it really is their grandchild. If a caller says, “It’s me, Grandma!” don’t respond with a name, but instead let the caller explain who he or she is. One easy way to confirm their identity is to ask a simple question that the grandchild would know such as what school he or she goes to or their middle name.
Above all, remain calm and confirm the identity of the individual by calling him or her directly or verifying the story with other family members before taking any further action.