Editor's note: The following information is taken from a press release provided by the Port Washington Police Department.
The Port Washington Police Department once again warns well-meaning senior citizens of our community to be aware of a nation-wide telephone scam that preys upon grandparents. The "emergency" scam is designed to fool grandparents into believing that their grandchild is hurt, arrested or stranded, and in need of money.
The grandparent scam which has been around for a few years is on the rise this holiday season. Retirees and grandparents are an attractive target for financial scammers. These emergency scams play off of people’s emotions and strong desire to help others in need, especially this time of year.
As recently as yesterday, an unsuspecting Port Washington grandparent was contacted by a scammer posing as her grandson, reporting that he had been stranded in Mexico and asking for money to help cover travel expenses. The grandparent nearly became another victim of this scam. Fortunately however, the local retailer the grandparent chose to wire the funds through, recognized this as a scam and refused to complete the wire transfer. The grandparent, then realizing she had nearly become a victim of the scam, contacted police and reported the incident.
Generally, the scam works like this — the grandparent receives a "distress" phone call from a person whom they believe is their grandchild. The supposed grandchild typically explains that they are traveling in Canada, Mexico, or some other locale and have been arrested, involved in an auto accident or stranded and need the grandparent to wire money to post bail, pay for damages or travel expenses—usually amounting to a few thousand dollars. While many seniors have reported the scam without falling prey to it, unfortunately, many others have been victimized. Mequon police reported that at least seven residents reported receiving similar calls this week, and two unsuspecting victims forwarded more than $10,000 to the scammers via Western Union.
Law enforcement officials are not certain how perpetrators are obtaining phone numbers for so many senior citizens across the U.S. The scammers’ basic tactic is to pose as a grandchild and let the unsuspecting grandparent fill in the blanks. For example, the scam caller might say, “It’s me, your favorite grandchild,” to which the grandparent will guess the name of the grandchild it sounds the most like, and then the call proceeds from there.
Our advice to protect yourself from this scam, and avoid being victimized in the first place is:
- Resist the pressure to act quickly.
- Try to contact your grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate.
- Never wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an e-mail ... especially overseas. Wiring money is like giving cash – once you send it, you can’t get it back.
Residents who may receive scam phone calls or emails are urged to report them to the Port Washington Police Department immediately by calling 262-284-5575.