Natatia Bledsoe is the public information officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department.
The Grandparents Scam
Money scams against the elderly are unfortunately all too common, and one incident that happened in the city recently is a good example of why we need to help our loved ones and neighbors guard against these frauds.
A lady in her 80s got a phone call on Tuesday morning from a man claiming to be her grandson. The man didn’t volunteer his name at the start of the conversation, but when the victim asked “Is this Eddie?” the man on the phone said yes and answered to that name for the rest of the conversation.
Eddie claimed to have been in a car accident involving a couple from Haiti and he needed $2000 to pay a lawyer so he could get out of jail.
Eddie told the victim not to tell his parents what happened because he didn’t want to get in trouble, and that she was the only one he trusted.
Another man got on the phone who was supposed to be Eddie’s lawyer, and he explained to the victim how to wire the money to an address in Haiti. He told her that it had to be done by 4 p.m. and to call him back with the confirmation number.
The victim did what she was told and wired the money from a local CVS store. When she called the scammer’s phone number back, the “lawyer” told her that Eddie needed more money because he was worried about getting sued. The victim agreed to send another $2000, but fortunately for her the transaction would not go through.
After thinking about it all day, the victim called police and made a report.
The phone number provided to the victim for the supposed lawyer is associated with multiple reports of fraud, all along the same lines as this incident and called the “grandparents scam”. The victim in this case told the officer that she’d even heard about con artists trying these tricks, but the men on the phone were so convincing that she got caught up in the emotion of Eddie’s need for help.
Strangers prey upon the vulnerability and trusting nature of our older residents, knowing that so many of them will do absolutely anything they can to help a loved grandchild. The powers of discernment often diminish quickly as we age, and elderly folks who live alone are especially at risk for falling into scams like these.
Any request to wire money from an unverified individual should be treated with extreme caution. Tell your older relatives to be prepared for such attempts, and tell them to never send any money without checking and double checking – with the police if necessary – that the story is real and the person on the other end of the line is legitimate.
In this case, someone in Haiti is now $2000 richer. And the victim’s grandson Eddie* is just fine.
* Name changed for the sake of the victim