Police in Takoma Park are once again warning residents about the commonly known “Grandparent Scam.”
The Grandparent Scam occurs when a fraudster pretends to be a family member or friend of the victim and claims to be in trouble or in need of help. Sometimes, the scammer will say that the loved one is unable to speak, so the scammer speaks on their behalf. Scammers make various emergency claims during these calls, such as a loved one being in jail, having been in an accident, being kidnapped, or being physically injured. To assist the family member or friend, the fraudster typically insists that the victim must send money through wire transfer or other means, such as pre-paid cards, online transactions, or gift card purchases.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports that the scams are getting more sophisticated. In 2020, the scam took a new turn: Victims handed over thousands of dollars in cash to a scammer who came to their home to collect the money. The victims provided their addresses, and someone arrived to collect cash. These scammers frequently target older adults.
On November 16, 2020, an 84-year-old woman in Silver Spring was contacted by a scammer pretending to be her grandson. The scammer claimed to have been in a car accident and in police custody. Another individual posing as the grandson’s lawyer then instructed the victim to pay cash for her grandson’s release. A person pretending to be a “courier” later arrived at the victim’s home to collect the money.
Three days later, on November 19, 2020, a 77-year-old woman in Silver Spring received a call from a scammer posing as a lawyer. The imposter claimed that her son had been in a car accident and insisted on being paid to appear in court with her son. Subsequently, a person claiming to be a “bail bondsman” visited the victim’s home to collect the cash.
Authorities state that these phone scams are not specific to this area, and the method of visiting the victim’s home to collect money has been documented in other areas of the state and across the country.
Takoma Park Police offer the following tips for dealing with the Grandparent Scam:
If someone tells you to send money through Western Union or MoneyGram, it’s likely a scam. They might also tell you to send a check or money order by overnight delivery. Scammers suggest these methods so they can take your money before you realize you’ve been tricked. The recipient can pick up the money transfer at any service location using the confirmation number.
Do not share information over the phone. Ask the caller to provide their name and only share personal information with people you trust.
Contact the friend or relative who is asking for help to verify if the situation is real by using a phone number you already have. If you can’t reach that person, call other friends or family members to double-check the details.
Do not send money through wire transfer. If you have already sent money and it has not been collected, contact the wire transfer service to cancel the transaction. Once the money has been collected, it cannot be retrieved.
It’s important to listen to your instincts and alert your family and friends about this scam and other money-wiring schemes. Many older adults are still falling victim to these scams because they haven’t been informed. If you haven’t already discussed this scam with the seniors in your life, it’s important to do so now.
Anyone who has information about the suspects involved with these scams is asked to call Takoma Park Police at (301) 891-7100. Those who wish to remain anonymous may contact Crime Solvers of Montgomery County by phone at (866) 411-TIPS (8477), online, or via the Crime Solvers mobile app.