Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre is warning residents about a phone scam where victims believe they are helping to bail a family member out of jail. Sometimes referred to as the “Grandparent Scam,” it usually involves a family member being in distress and asking for money.
In the most common form of the scam, the perpetrator often calls the potential victim pretending to be a family member such as a grandchild. The caller sounds upset and may state they have a cold if their voice is not recognized.
The caller typically states they have only a few moments to talk and proceed to give a detailed story. That story usually begins with the caller saying he/she was traveling in a foreign country with a friend, and following a car accident or legal infraction, they are now in jail and need bail money wired to an account as soon as possible using a service such as Moneygram or Western Union.
The caller may claim to need a few hundred dollars or several thousand dollars, sometimes spanning the course of multiple calls. The potential victim may also speak to, or receive a separate call from, someone claiming to be a law enforcement officer, a U.S. official or an attorney confirming the story or asking for additional funds.
“The victims of these scams are often convinced they were speaking to the relative,” said Sheriff Webre. “We have already seen Lafourche Parish residents victimized by this intricate scam, and we hope that by bringing awareness to it, we can avoid more residents falling victim to it.”
No matter how convincing the scam may be, there are always ways to check and verify information. Sheriff Webre offers citizens the following tips to avoid falling victim to this scam or ones like it:
Always ask for as much information as possible about the location they are being “held.” If it is a legitimate call, you will be able to look up contact information for the facility and contact them directly.
Contact family members immediately to inquire about the relative. These scams can often be avoided with a single phone call or text message. Start with the easiest source: the relative claiming to be imprisoned. If that person is not available right away, contact the immediate family.
If caller I.D. is functional during the call, look up the country code or area code of the number to attempt to verify it is coming from the country they specified. These scams have been known to originate in Quebec, Canada, and so, if the number has a 914 area code, it is likely a scam.
“When there is any doubt whatsoever, before you send any money, contact the Sheriff’s Office to report the call,” said Sheriff Webre. “Remember that no matter what you agree to during the conversation, you should always protect yourself by verifying all information prior to sending any money.”
Posted on Wed, January 23, 2013