New Scam Targets Grandparents


In recent weeks Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. – Crescenta Valley Station has received reports of a scam that targets mostly the elderly and their love for family. The scam is not isolated to the La Cañada Flintridge – Crescenta Valley areas, not even to California, but has affected people throughout the nation.

A common scenario, according to the FBI, is a “grandparent receives a phone call (or sometimes an email) from a ‘grandchild.’ If it is a phone call, it’s often late at night or early in the morning when most people aren’t thinking that clearly. Usually, the person claims to be traveling in a foreign country and has gotten into a bad situation, like being arrested for drugs, getting in a car accident, or being mugged and needs money wired ASAP. And the caller doesn’t want his or her parents told.”

Sometimes the “grandchild” will be on the phone then transfers it to a supposed police officer or attorney who continues the scam by letting the victim know this is a “serious situation” that only money can solve.

In one reported case in the area, the person pretending to be a grandchild/nephew was in a ride share vehicle that was stopped by the police and drugs were found in the car. The grandchild/nephew was the “real victim.”

“[Scammers] keep you on the phone as you go to the bank. They don’t give the [victim] time to call the [loved one],” said Sgt. Alan Chu, of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station.

He added scammers take advantage of the emotional upheaval they create.

“Sometimes instead of the ‘grandchild’ making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer, a doctor at a hospital, or some other person. We’ve also received complaints about the phony grandchild talking first and then handing the phone over to an accomplice to further spin the fake tale. We’ve also seen military families victimized. After perusing a soldier’s social networking site, a con artist will contact the soldier’s grandparents, sometimes claiming that a problem came up during military leave that requires money to address,” according to an FBI statement.

The scam has been around for a while but a new twist is when the criminals tell the victim to get a cashier’s check made out to the “name of their agency.” Then they, as the fake attorney, will send a representative from their supposed office to pick up the check. Those who have been scammed report that a young, professionally dressed person came to their home and picked up the check.

“Call and verify with your relative,” Chu suggested. “And don’t trust your caller ID; [scammers] can put whatever number they want displayed.”

The FBI has some suggestions to avoid being a victim including resisting the pressure to act quickly, trying to contact your grandchild or another family member to determine whether the call is legitimate and “never wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an email, especially overseas. Wiring money is like giving cash. Once you send it you can’t get it back.”

Scams seem to go in waves throughout communities. There are some other types of scams, including donation and job opportunity scams. CVW will be looking into those in the coming weeks and finding out what victims can do, especially when dealing with financial institutions and credit cards.