Beware of phone scam targeting grandparents
STAR JOURNAL REPORT
With spring break just around the corner, this may be a good time to remind people – especially grandparents of a popular scam that has been seen throughout the state.
Law enforcement from around the state are warning that scammers will call a targeted victim pretending to be the victim’s grandchild stating they are in jail. Often the story is that the grandson/daughter was in an accident and has been arrested. The caller pretending to the grandson/daughter is often crying and hysterical, making it difficult for the victim to recognize the caller. The “grandson/daughter” will tell the victim that their attorney will contact them to arrange bail for them to get out of jail.
Another caller pretending to be the attorney will then contact the victim with instructions to purchase gift cards in order to get their grandson/daughter out of jail.
If the victim says they don’t have the amount the “attorney” says is needed, the “attorney” will then call back stating that they made arrangements for a lower amount. It is not unusual for the “attorney” to call back, if successful, saying there are now additional fees.
The victim will be told to purchase multiple gift cards ranging from $50 to $2,000 per card; sometimes the victim is on the phone with the scammer while they are purchasing the cards. If the scammer does not remain on the phone with the victim during the purchase of the cards, the scammer often repeatedly calls the victim every 3-4 minutes.
Immediately after purchasing and activating the cards, the victim will then be instructed to scratch off the code and provide it along with the card number to the scammer on the phone.
The average amount of the scam per victim is $4,000 but can range as high as $15,000.
After a successful scam, the scammer will continue to attempt to scam the victim.
Sometimes the victim gets a cash advance on their credit card to purchase the gift cards, or goes to bank to withdraw money from their account for the purchase.
Because the victim believes their grandson/daughter is in trouble, they are often embarrassed to tell the store clerk why they are buying so many gift cards, even when asked.
Warning signs for retailers:
• Multiple gift card purchases
• High dollar amounts
• Repeated purchases
• Older victim
• Victim may be nervous
• Victim is on cell phone receiving instructions
• Paying for gift cards with a combination of credit cards and cash
When retailers encounter a customer purchasing gift cards where some of the warning signs are present, they are encouraged to ask the customer why they are purchasing the cards and did someone say they were an attorney. Retail clerks or their managers are then urged to contact law enforcement.