Police warn of 'grandparent scam'


The Atherton Police Department last week issued a warning about a phone scam that targets grandparents -- an operation known as the "grandparent scam" that's being played out all over the country but that recently has victimized several residents in town.

The caller pretends to be a grandchild or a person of authority, such as an attorney or law enforcement officer. The grandparent is told that the grandchild is out of town, in some sort of predicament, and needs to have funds wired immediately.

On April 4, the police department issued a bulletin on its blog, saying: "In the past weeks, there have been several reports of residents receiving fraudulent calls seeking wired funds. Unfortunately, some of our residents have fallen prey to this scam."

The bulletin advised residents receiving such a call to contact the grandchild directly, or call his or her parents or other relative.

Those who have fallen prey to the scam are urged to call the police to file a report. "You should also file a fraud report with the company you used to send the funds," the police bulletin said.

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Posted by Explain something
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 11, 2011 at 9:44 pm

How do the con artists know the people they're calling are old and/or grandparents??

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Posted by bloodhound
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 11, 2011 at 11:20 pm

No need to point fingers, as this kind of info is all over the Internet. I just went to an info search site, typed in "Atherton, CA" as location and a common name as last name. I got a list of Atherton residents, including three aged 75+. I didn't have to pay any money or have any special knowledge.

Of course, there's no guarantee that a 75-year-old is a grandparent, but the odds are probably decent.

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Posted by Jack L.
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 11, 2011 at 11:22 pm

I can see how you get names, phone numbers, and ages of Atherton residents from the internet. But the names of their grandchildren? Isn't that the key part of the scam? The grandchildren likely do not live with them, and probably out of state.

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Posted by bloodhound
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 11, 2011 at 11:40 pm

In the example that was in one of the daily tabloids a few weeks ago, the "grandchild" did not give a name but rather waited for the cue from the grandparent.

"Hey, grandma!"

"Ashley, is that you?" or "Is this Ashley?"

The grandparent does not want to admit that s/he doesn't really recognize the voice, because then the grandchild will think that s/he is old/incompetent.

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Posted by Ol' Homeboy
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 12, 2011 at 12:40 pm

The scam is simple. The scammers simply look-up obituaries in local newspaper archives. Often, the surviving spouse, children and grandchildren's names are often listed.

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Posted by casper
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Apr 13, 2011 at 8:53 am

The con artists do not need to know the name of the grandparent that they are calling, which makes the scam so successful. My grandfather got scammed a year ago and was about five minutes from wiring money until he received a call from her directly after he had contacted the school.

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Posted by Gia
a resident of another community
on Apr 13, 2011 at 9:21 am

This is not is happening a lot. They call the house and say hey auntie its me! the victim asks who? and the scammer says how could you not recognize me...blah blah until the victim gives them a name to use. Its happening a lot from Mexico because of all the things going on there...just dont play dumb or give a name that is not in your family...

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Posted by Bazerkly
a resident of another community
on Apr 13, 2011 at 10:59 am

They tried this scam on my mother. Warn your elders!

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Posted by Hanni Elbogen
a resident of another community
on Apr 13, 2011 at 11:17 am

I had the same call originating in Canada from my so-called grandson, asking for $2,800 bail money and know of two other identical instances the same day. I put the call on hold and phoned my grandson in the East who was where he was supposed to be, then got back on the other line and told the scammers. They hung up immediately. I then called the police as well as the FBI since the call came from Canada who knew ll about these scams but said they could do nothing about it. Two months later they called again and I told them the FBI was on their case. That same week there was a piece in the SF Chronicle stating that a group of young people in Canada tried to get across the border to the U.S. and were apprehended and that they were the ones who had been harassing elderly people in the States. It's best to be careful!

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Posted by Cathy
a resident of another community
on Apr 13, 2011 at 11:52 am

Scammers tried this on my parents a few years ago. They were savvy enough not to wire money but my mom was very upset by it. She was tricked into giving them my youngest son's name. Senior citizens don't always hear so well on the phone, so the voice isn't necessarily a give-away. Even though they knew it had to be a scam, they couldn't relax until my son called them (from his high school). It made me so angry that this happened to my parents! Please warn all the seniors in your life about this scheme.

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Posted by not a grandparent
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Apr 14, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I had two calls in the last couple of months, one to my home phone and one to my cell phone. Both times the caller said, "Hello Grandma". When I said "you must have the wrong number" or "what", they hung up.
I didnt realize at the time that there was a grandparent scam. They must call everyone and look for grandparents.

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Posted by Jason
a resident of Laurel School
on Apr 19, 2011 at 11:39 am

I am actually in Arizona and just got off the phone with my grandma who was balling hysterically because she thought I was in jail in Canada. She is 84 years old, sick, and lives in a home.... I would personally like to find out where this orignated from and somehow hold the persons responsible accountable..

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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