The Newport Beach Police Department today issued a “Grandparent Scam-Wire Fraud Advisory” after three incidents in the past week, including two in Corona del Mar.
“How the scam works: Imposters call senior citizens identifying themselves as their grandchild and requesting money for an emergency situation,” the police Nixle alert states. “The con artist asks the grandparent to wire money, often out of the country or out of state, for the fees or fines the alleged grandchild has to pay to be released from jail or to re-enter the United States.”
The first incident occurred about 8 a.m. Aug. 27, when an elderly Corona del Mar man received a call from a man who claimed to be an attorney representing the man’s grandson, said Kathy Lowe, a Newport Beach Police Department spokeswoman, in an email. The victim wired $1,955 to the suspect in Texas, she said.
“The other victim was contacted on August 28th and was told a similar story by a male who was impersonating her grandson,” Lowe said. “She was scammed out of $2,500.”
Both victims called police after they realized they were victims.
Sometimes, the scammer will pretend to be out of the country and arrested after an accident and will ask for money to be wired secretly, the alert said.
“This is only one variation of the scam,” the alert said. “In one call, the fake ‘grandchild’ was crying very hard because he had been arrested in Canada and needed money for bail. The target victim did not recognize the voice and was wary until the caller asked ‘Grandma, do you know who this is?’ At that point, the grandmother asked, ‘Is this Sam?’ The caller then had the grandchild’s name.”
The suspect then said the authorities had seized his passport and credit cards and claimed to need $2,900. In that case, police said, the woman became suspicious, contacted other families and realized the call was fake.
Police urged residents to avoid becoming a victim of this scam by not giving any information, such as family members’ names, during such calls. Often without you supplying information, the caller will hang up. Police said to verify the whereabouts of family members — but don’t use numbers given by the caller. Police advise not to send money until you are sure the relative is in danger, and never to give out bank account or credit card information to strangers. Once money is sent by a wire transfer, police said, especially if sent to a foreign country, it is nearly impossible to stop the transaction.
“Keep in mind with the many sources of public information at their fingertips, these con artists can easily find out basic information about people and use it to their advantage,” the police alert said/ “They may read obituaries, go into social networking sites of the Internet, or use other sources to find out just enough details to pull off their scam.”
Anyone who has been scammed should file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.