By Mary O’KEEFE
A local resident wants to warn friends and neighbors of an apparent phone scam targeting grandparents.
“I got a call and the [man on the other end] said, ‘Hello grandma,’” said La Crescenta resident Loraine Locke.
Locke said the man sounded very confident as he pretended to be her grandson but never gave his name. For a moment he did sound like her grandson.
“He said he was on this trip to Spain and was having a wonderful time. I said, ‘You know this doesn’t sound like you,’” she said.
Without missing a beat he said he had a cold and wasn’t feeling well. He invented a story that wove a trip to Spain against the wishes of his mother to getting in with the wrong crowd and ending up with being arrested.
“He said, ‘Last night my friend and I met up with a couple of guys and there was marijuana in the trunk of the car. Since Mom didn’t want me to come I really need the cash,’” Locke said.
There were several clues during the conversation when Locke knew it wasn’t her grandson but the caller was so convincing she wondered what his angle was – then he asked for money.
She told him she would not send him a dime and that he should call his mother because it is the parent’s responsibility. He got angry with her and pleaded but then finally hung up.
Locke contacted the sheriff’s station however the caller had not broken any laws, she was told.
“I just want people to know this kind of scam happens. It really shook me up and then made me so mad,” she added.
Her concern is that the person that called her may talk someone into giving him money.
Det. Frank Diana at the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station said this type of scam is common. With Internet access it is easy to find information on anyone including phone numbers, age and family members.
“It is similar to the elderly scam where someone comes to the door ask for help looking for a [lost pet] or asks to use the restroom and then [steals items from the home],” Diana said. “And these guys [may not] be living in this country.”
There is another ploy these criminals use that involves the victim winning a prize like the lottery they forgot they signed up for. A check will be sent to the victim who has been instructed to cash the check and send halfback to the sender. Later the check is usually found to be fake.
Diana is working on one case where an elderly resident received similar information as Locke’s caller relayed. She sent the caller over $3,000.
“She got swindled,” he said.
In this case the caller was so good at making that family connection he even mentioned their dog.
“He said something about the dog, the woman said she remembered the dog and the caller then asked what the dog’s name was,” Diana said.
At that point the familiarity grows because now the caller and victim are talking about a beloved family pet.
Diana warns anyone who gets this type of call to request a call back number.
“If it is a scam they usually won’t give you a call back number,” he added.
In addition try to get as much information as possible concerning the story and request for money.
“Before you do anything check with family members and find out where the grandchildren are,” he said.
If the caller tells the victim he is in jail find out the name of the prison and a number they can contact.
If a resident feels they have been a victim of this type of crime they should contact the CV Sheriff’s Station and ask to have the incident notated.
“In [Locke’s case] a crime wasn’t completed but we do document these [incidents],” Diana said.
And tell your friends like Locke is now doing.
“I just want everyone to know that this is happening,” she said.