‘Oh, yeah … the grandparent scheme,” the FBI agent said to me when I called to report that I almost fell for a scam for more than $3,000 – in cash!
I’m smarter than that, but I didn’t know then that the scammers have all kinds of tricks up their sleeves. They have a way to duplicate someone’s voice and can find a lot of info on social media, like whether your grandchild calls you “grandma,” “nanna,” “grandmother” or another endearing name.
I got the call from one of my grandsons – or so I thought. Although I have 15 grandchildren and speak with them only occasionally, it sure sounded like the one grandson he said he was.
He told me he was in trouble because of a car accident and asked me to speak with a police officer for the whole story. The man got on the phone and here’s how the story went.
My “grandson” had an accident and hit a rental car driven by some people from out of town, who were furious. Although the rental car company said it would definitely reimburse them when it was all settled, the rental company wanted to be paid immediately. (The story is a little fuzzy now and my heart was beating so fast then, I may not have remembered all the details correctly.) They paid it and wanted cash from my grandson overnighted to their home in another state or they were going to press charges and my grandson could go to jail – something like that. The “officer” said he was doing my grandson a favor by asking them not to press charges. He gave me the address of where to send the money and gave me his personal cellphone number.
I said I couldn’t get my hands on that kind of cash, so he explained how I should use two different credit cards and ask for cash advances at any nearby bank. The grandson got back on the phone to say he was sorry and thank you. One thing I could have done, but was too stressed to think of at the time, was to ask for the name of his dog.
After I hung up, I called my grandson’s mother and left a message about the situation and asked her to call me. Then I called another one of my daughters and explained it all to her. She said absolutely do not send money – it’s a scam — and a friend’s mother did send cash for a similar scheme because the voice had sounded just like her granddaughter. Then my other daughter called me back and said she had just spoken to her son, who was at work and amazed (“Grandma fell for that?!”). When I called to report the incident, the police gave me the phone number for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). I called and shared all the details.
The other scam? Several months ago, an AARP bulletin had printed area codes of scammers who call and get you to stay on the phone and rack up tons of dollars in fees. I cut out the numbers, marked it “bad” and taped it to the back of my cell phone.
When I got a call from a number in Jamaica, I turned my cellphone over, saw that it was one of the bad area codes and hung up. (See accompanying image.) Perhaps my experiences will alert you to be extra cautious. To file a complaint about a scam, go online to ftc.gov/complaint or call (877) 382-4357.
Wood, of Questa, is a humorous inspirational speaker and award-winning author of “Think and Grow Young: Powerful Steps to Create a Life of Joy.” Her forthcoming part memoir/part self-help book is “Blues Busters! 7 Mind/Body/Spirit Habits That Transformed My Life.” Wood’s website is ellenwoodspeaks.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.