What would you do if your grandson or daughter was imprisoned in a foreign country? That’s a really terrifying thought and maybe something you’ve never thought about. How would he or she be treated? How long would they have to stay? Will they come home again? How will they get home? What if they have no money to get home and have lost their passport? What if they are injured? How can I help them? Where will I get the money?
Sadly, seniors are reporting having received calls that fit this description and have had this same thought process about how they are to help their grandchild in his or her time of need. The really awful part is it’s not their grandchild calling but an impersonator. One has to wonder how someone would dig up enough information to be able to impersonate someone’s grandchild. It must be someone very close to the individual, right? At least, the person probably lives in the same community or at least in the same city. The crazy thing is the young adults making these calls DO NOT know these grandparents and do not live anywhere near them. In fact, it is reported that these calls are being made from places like Canada, Puerto Rico, and China.
Probably, you’re wondering how someone could fail to distinguish another kid’s voice from their own grandchild’s. Also why is it that they are calling the grandparents instead of the parents? All of this just seems odd.
Basically, the young adult calling has limited information about the grandparent. Whatever he or she can snag off of the internet via search engines or social media provides enough information to carry on a brisk conversation. With that information, they call a list of grandparents and perpetuate the same scam, which goes something like this:
KID: Hi Grandma! Guess who this is?
GRANDMA: Hi… It’s been so long, since I’ve talked to you… Is this Jonathan?
KID: Why yes, it is?
GRANDMA: You sound different.
KID: Well, it could be our phone connection. Plus, I’ve had this cold for a few days.
GRANDMA: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. So how have you been? How’s school going?
KID: School’s going okay, but I’m in a bit of trouble and could really use your help.
GRANDMA: Are you okay? What happened?
KID: I went on this trip to Mexico with my friend Monty, and we were in a car accident. The police found some marijuana in the trunk. I have no idea how it got there. They took my passport and won’t let me go home, until my bail is paid. PLEASE, don’t tell mom and dad.
GRANDMA: Why wouldn’t I tell your mom and dad? I’m sure that they are very worried about you.
KID: I know, grandma, but if you could just loan me the money, I promise to pay you back. I really don’t want to worry mom over this.
GRANDMA: Well, how much is the bail?
KID: Oh, it looks like my time is up. I’ll have the attorney call you. Gotta go, grandma! Love you! Bye!
The next call is usually from someone pretending to be a legal representative, who tells the grandmother the cost of the bail and how she can wire the money to make the payment. If she makes the payment, other calls may be received to request payment for incidental costs. A mysterious injury or hospital visit might take place, a car needing repairs or being held at customs, etc.
The important thing to realize is that this scam is taking place. Should you receive one of these calls, be aware of what is going on and spread the word to people you know. Be sure and call the child’s parents to verify his or her whereabouts.
Seniors, who have reported this scam, have informed us that they have called the parents only to find out that the grandchild is at work or in school, as they should be. No trip to Mexico was ever made. It’s just all part of a gimmick to swindle money.
Should you have any questions about the legitimacy of an overseas call that you’ve received, contact the State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) at 1-888-407-4747. If you are a victim of a “grandparent scam,” register a complaint online with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Give us a call, if you need further guidance.