Within the last few weeks, Yavapai County Sheriff's Office deputies responded to at least two reports of telephone fraud involving a scam targeting seniors. This particular scam involves a caller who contacts an elderly person claiming to be his or her grandson. The caller shares a believable story of his involvement in an accident or criminal incident in Canada and a subsequent arrest. The "grandson" asks for money in order to post bail and then puts a person on the line that is identified as a bail bondsman. The bondsman provides the bail amount, usually several thousand dollars, and requests the money be wired using a MoneyGram or Western Union service. In some cases the "bondsman," aka fraud suspect, even calls back to thank the victim for their cooperation after the transaction. Both victims were suspicious and did not send any money.
This type of scam appeals to the emotions of mostly elderly victims who feel an immediate need to help a desperate family member. The stories can range from an accident situation as already mentioned, to a situation in which the "grandson" picked up a couple of hitchhikers who were found with drugs during a traffic stop resulting in the arrest of everyone in the car.
Many of these suspects use social networking sights, such as MySpace or Facebook, to identify family members through profiles and photos. This is followed by a simple check of online phone directories which provides a telephone number for the target victim and the scam is underway. In some cases, suspects are able to note travel plans and specific family information that makes the scheme that much more plausible to the victim.
In a recent AARP Bulletin, a victim shares her story involving the same scam. This victim, over a two day period, ended up sending $17,000 dollars to cover bail and lawyer's fees for her "grandson" involving an incident in Canada.
Unfortunately, the scams are difficult to investigate because suspects usually reside outside the U.S. and many of the cell phones used are discarded before they can be traced. Any request to wire money should be seen as a red flag, because such transfers are hard to track.
Those family members caring for older parents or relatives should alert them to this phone scam and make sure they understand to verify any unsolicited information received in this manner. If a senior person uses an online social networking site, make sure the site is restricted to known family and friends.
Citizens can contact the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office with information or questions at
(928) 771-3260 or the YCSO website: www.ycsoaz.gov