Another day, another scam
Updated February 19, 2014
Last month an 88-year-old Cerritos resident received a frantic telephone call from someone claiming to be his nephew. The caller advised our elderly resident that he had been in a terrible traffic accident in Denver and needed money to pay his medical bill and cover his legal costs. Being a bit suspicious and because he hadn't talked to the nephew in several years, he asked a couple of personal questions that the caller was able to plausibly answer. He then quickly wired $1,670 to an account as directed by the nephew. About six hours later our resident received another call from someone claiming to be the nephew's attorney. The attorney requested an additional $1,670 to handle his court fee. Our resident never hesitated and the funds were quickly shot off into cyberspace. When he received a third call early the next morning from a woman affiliated with the attorney who requested additional funds, our resident became suspicious and called his nephew. That's when he learned that his nephew had not been in a traffic accident, had not been arrested, and had never been to Denver.
The grandmother/father scam has been around for a long time, but it still works periodically. Thieves can obtain a lot of personal information on the Internet that people willingly post about themselves. With a bit of work a savvy thief can learn enough to convince some people, especially older folks, that they are a relative and in urgent need of financial help. Usually the scenario involves needing bail money in some foreign country, but there are countless variations on the story and all believable enough that people easily fall victim to this scam.
To reduce your risk, talk to family and friends and let them know that this scam is out there and people are falling for it, especially if you have family members who live or travel out of state or the country. Some experts recommend setting up code words in advance that can be used to verify if a call is actually from a family member. Seniors are often targeted by scammers, so certainly mention this scam to older friends and family members. If you do receive this call, take the time to verify some of the details, make telephone calls, and advise other family members about the request. Ask the caller questions about yourself that are unlikely to be on the Internet but that a family member would know. No incident is so urgent that you can't take a little time to investigate. Be aware and be protected because tomorrow it'll be another day, and another scam.