Scam plays on grandparents’ generosity

Published 4:31 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A recent scam has one business organization warning grandparents to beware of callers claiming emergency.

Better Business Bureau of eastern North Carolina has sent out a notice about the resurgence of an old scam that preys on the good graces of grandparents. People are taken in when someone posing as the grandchild calls and claims the grandchild is in a predicament, such as an accident or arrest, usually in a different state or country. The scammers may use information gathered on social media to make the ruse more believable before they ask victims to wire money to get the grandchild out of trouble, according to a BBB press release.

“This con is a popular choice for scammers to use because they have been able to use this scam to take advantage of seniors for years,” Mallory Wojciechowski, president and CEO of BBB serving Eastern NC, said in a press release. “It is important for all seniors to be aware of this con and to understand that different versions of the scam, which substitute grandchildren for friends or extended family, are still going around.”

Local law enforcement officials say they haven’t heard reports of any county residents becoming victim to this particular scam yet.

“Recently, the biggest one that we’ve seen is the IRS scam that they call up and say you owe taxes, and they need to get paid, otherwise they’re going to send the sheriff after you,” said Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Charlie Rose. “That one’s been running pretty steadily lately — that was one of the big ones right to the end of the tax season.”

In 2012, Beaufort County grandparents were fooled on two separate occasions by the a variation on the scam. The two victims wired money to “get their grandchildren out of jail” after callers claimed to be law enforcement officials. One victim lost $2,000; the other lost $5,000.

BBB is encouraging people to beware of any emergency call that involves the caller asking for money to be wired for reasons such as posting bail, repairing a car, covering lawyer’s fees or paying hospital bills. They encourage potential victims to verify a grandchild’s identity by asking a personal question such as the name of the school he or she attends or even, as family, coming up with a secret code or password that can be used to verify a true emergency.