The grandparent scam

By Gerre Joiner | Published Saturday, August 10, 2013

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Every once in a while, one of the guys tells a story that, re-told, helps the community. Here’s one!

This afternoon, my friend Bill Wolaver sat down next to me at the coffee shop. I asked how he was doing. He said, “I had a scary morning.”

Gerre Joiner

Gerre Joiner

He told me it all started with a phone call he received mid-morning. The caller said, “Hi! This is your favorite grandson.”

Bill mentioned the name of his oldest grandson, and the voice said, “Yes.” The caller then told Bill that he had been in an accident in Mexico and was in jail. He instructed his grandpa to wire $1,000 to a certain place as soon as possible.

At some point in the conversation, Bill noted, “This doesn’t sound like (name).” The caller said, “I’ve had a cold.”

Bill mentioned that the number from which the caller was calling was not a familiar number. The reply was, “My phone was taken from me.”

The faithful grandpa left his country home, went to the bank and withdrew $1,000. He then drove to the office of the Wise County Sheriff and told the officers the story. Immediately they instructed him not to wire the money and helped him make some phone calls as he searched for the grandson.

The grandson was located in Fort Worth … safe and sound.

Bill told me someone in his family had done an Internet search and located information regarding this scam. I did a search while we sat at the coffee shop and quickly found it. They call it “Grandparents Scam.” Bill’s experience was typified by the scam described on the Internet.

  • The “frantic” scammer poses as a distressed family member needing money to get out of a problem (wreck, jail, etc.).
  • The concerned grandparent is instructed to wire the money, via Western Union or MoneyGram (or even provide bank routing numbers!). Wiring money is like sending cash. Typically there is no way you can reverse the transaction, trace the money or recover payment from the telephone con artists. How do the scammers get the name of the “scam-ee?” It’s easy for a scammer to do a “White Pages” search, view the name/age of the unsuspecting individual and make random phone calls until they find one who just might send the money.

The sad part of the story is that the scammer is preying on the nurturing instincts of a loving grandparent – a sad way to treat anyone! The grandparent assesses the situation, realizes that details are sketchy but concludes, “There’s not one thing I wouldn’t do for my grandchild.”

A scary morning indeed, Bill!

Gerre Joiner is a semi-retired church musician and has lived in Decatur since 1999.

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