Oregon State Police is warning Oregon families about scammers who pose as grandchildren claiming to be in trouble and needing money immediately.
Two known recent incidents in eastern Oregon, as well as past incidents reported to the Oregon Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Hotline, are causing concern that others may receive calls about the “emergency scam,” also known as the “grandparent scam.”
The scam targets grandparents with fake stories about family members stranded in Canada or overseas in urgent need of money. The emergency scam usually goes something like this:
“Hi Grandma, it’s me, your favorite grandkid. I am up in Canada right now with my good friend John. Please don’t tell Mom and Dad, but I had an accident (or was arrested and need money to get out of jail). John and I are in a little trouble and need your help. We hit a car and needed to hire an attorney. Can you please wire me $4,700 so I can pay my attorney and come home? Please don’t tell Mom and Dad! I promise to pay you back when I get home!”
An OSP detective investigating one of these cases found that the imposter will go through newspaper anniversary announcements and obituaries where they may find names of an entire family. Additional research using white pages or Internet search engines (i.e., Google) for a phone number leads to the placement of these scam phone calls.
There are several red flags that indicate a scammer is at work. Be wary of a caller who:
n Requests that money be wired in a very short time frame;
n Claims to be stuck in a foreign country;
n Insists on secrecy; and/or
n Gets some personal details wrong.
Scammers prey on the emotions of grandparents wanting to help their grandchildren. This is a despicable scam, conducted by con artists in the U.S. and other countries. Before wiring money, grand-parents should independently call and confirm the whereabouts of their family members.
Be highly skeptical of any phone request for money wires and don’t fall prey to the pressures placed by the caller. Ask personal questions to the callers to confirm their identity, about such things as schools attended, pet names, presents given or received, or names of other family members.
Oregonians who think they have been a victim of the “grandparent scam” should call the Oregon Attorney General Consumer Hotline at 877-877-9392 (www.doj.state.or.us) and the Federal Trade Commission at 800-FTC-HELP (www.ftc.gov).
When in doubt, and BEFORE YOU SEND ANY MONEY, contact the State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 888-407-4747. The OCS can help verify whether the situation is legitimate or a scam.