By Linda Kor
Several Holbrook residents have reported to local law enforcement over the past year that they received phone calls from someone claiming to be a grandchild in dire need of funds due to being involved in an accident and needing bail, or being stranded…none of which was true.
The calls all originated in Canada and are part of what authorities call the “Grandchild In Canada” scam. How the scammers obtain information letting them know who to contact can vary. In one scamming ring that was busted in Canada in 2011, seven individuals were running the operation in a basement and had stacks of telephone lists purchased by telemarketers with the ages of the individuals noted. It’s also believed that some scammers use social media sites to gain personal information or other Internet sites that reveal more information than people realize about their personal lives.
Holbrook resident Karen McLaws recounted her experience. The caller stated that he was her grandson KJ and that he had been flown to a friend’s wedding in upstate New York, drank a little too much and had gotten into an auto accident.
“He was pretending to cry quite a bit to disguise his voice. He called me grandma and said he had a lawyer and they were about to go into court, but he needed $1,000,” said McLaws. “I told him there was no way I had that kind of money. His ‘lawyer’ got on the phone and asked if he could get the amount reduced to $800, could I send that. I told him there was no way.”
As soon as the young man began explaining his circumstances McLaws knew something was up. Her grandson KJ was only 17 and didn’t drink, much less have friends getting married in New York. She told the boy to call her back after he got out of court and made a quick call to a family member to make certain her grandson was fine. She discovered he was at Boy Scout camp.
“I thought the entire thing was weird, but I didn’t get how he knew we called my grandson KJ, because it’s a family nickname,” she said. McLaws asked her ex-daughter-in-law how they could have known and was told that KJ did a lot of web design and that he used that name in his work, making it easy for scammers to pick up.
Although the scammers didn’t fool McLaws, many people are taken in by such pleas for money. In the 2011 scamming operation it was estimated that the scammers were able to fool 15 to 20 individuals per day into sending $2,500 to $6,000 in each incident.
The Federal Trade Commission offers guidelines to help people determine if they are falling victim to fraud. First, resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is. Verify the person’s identity by asking questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer. Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine. Check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret. Never wire money, or send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier.
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By Linda Kor