Identifying the grandparent scam isn’t always easy, according to Alcorn County Sheriff Ben Caldwell.
A theme of the scam is the caller’s request for the grandparent or intended victim to wire money through Western Union or to provide bank account routing numbers to the scammers who often pose as family members. Reports of this scam type have been made across the state, and Caldwell said he has received several local reports.
“It’s actually happened to both of my grandparents,” said Caldwell.
The sheriff said one scammer told his grandmother that he was one of her grandsons and had been involved in a car accident and arrested while out of the country.
“It’s odd because the grandson they claimed to be lives in Atlanta and often travels out of the country,” said Caldwell. “The scammer asked my grandmother to wire transfer $990 via Western Union to him in order to make bond.”
Caldwell said wire transfer is a red flag, as well as the “broken nose” story.
“My grandmother asked him why he didn’t sound like himself,” said Caldwell. “The scammer told her he had broken his nose in the wreck ... these scammers are pretty good. They’ve got a good answer for everything.”
Caldwell’s story is similar to a recent report from the office of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.
According to the report, a common scenario of the grandparent scam involves a scammer frantically contacting their victim claiming to be a loved one on vacation in some sort of distress or financial bind. The scammer will usually ask the victim to wire transfer money and could also ask for their bank account numbers. Scammers generally pose as a grandchild, family member or even a close friend or neighbor as they target grandparents or elder individuals who may be unsuspecting.
Hood also warned wiring money is identical to mailing cash.
“There are no protections for the sender and no way to reverse the transaction, trace the money or recover payment from the telephone con artists,” said Hood. “These scammers will try to convince their victims to send any amount — from several hundred to several thousand dollars — and they may even call back hours or days later asking for more money if they were successful the first time.”
Caldwell said instead of a wire transfer, scammers are also likely to ask that money be placed on a Green Dot card.
“It’s important that everyone – no matter their age – be aware of every single phone call. You never know when it might be a scammer claiming to be a family member or friend,” he said. “People should listen and take down as much information as possible and if a family member is mentioned, hang up the phone and try to reach that family member to ensure they aren’t in trouble.”
Caldwell said scammers are also spoofing telephone numbers.
“Caller ID spoofing allows scammers to seem as if they are calling you from a local number or even a number already saved in your phone,” he added.
Each local scam reported to the sheriff’s office has been turned over to the FBI, according to the sheriff.
A few tips offered by Hood’s office to protect you from becoming a victim of the grandparent scam or other ones similar to it include:
• Do not wire any amount of money unless you have properly assessed the situation or in some way verified with others close to your loved one that they are actually in trouble.
• Be suspicious if your loved one requests or demands that you keep the phone call a secret by claiming to be very embarrassed and/or scared.
• Avoid acting out of a sense of urgency if you receive communication from a “loved one” (scammer) who claims to be traveling and is in some sort of distress or financial bind asking you to urgently wire transfer them money.
• Immediately after receiving the call or message, attempt calling your “loved one” back at the telephone number through which you normally reach him or her if they reached out or attempted to reach out to you using an odd or long distance number.
(If you suspect you have already been the victim of a scam, or the intended victim of a scam, immediately report it to the Alcorn County Sheriff’s Office at 662-286-5521 or the Corinth Police Department at 662-286-3377 and the Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division at 601-359-4230.)