BEAVER — The Beaver Police Department is warning residents of a phone scam that has returned to the area, called “The grandparent scam.”
The department warns scammers target elderly residents, claiming to be an attorney, judge or bail bondsman.
The scammers claim the individual’s grandchildren were arrested, often “linking the arrest” to a recent accident, and ask for money to be used for bail or other court costs.
“The callers will be very persuasive. The caller will stay in communication with the ‘grandparent’ while they retrieve cash money from the bank,” the department said in a release.
Police state while the individuals are on the phone with the caller, another person associated with the scam will typically show up to their house to collect, and be even more persuasive about collecting.
The department said this scam has been successful over the past couple of weeks in western Pennsylvania, including in Beaver County. The department also asks to call them or another local department if a resident has been, or feels they have been a victim of a scam.
How to protect against the scams
The Consumer Federation of America issued advice on how to identify and prevent these types of “grandparent” scams.
They said scammers sometimes choose their targets randomly, others use marketing lists, telephone listings, and information like social networking sites and obituaries, while others hack into email accounts and send messages to everyone in the account’s contact list.
The federation states sometimes scammers will not know the individual’s grandchildren, if they even have any, asking questions or stating phrases like “Hi, grandma,” or calling in the middle of the night.
Other times, the scammers will gain access to a relative or family member’s name.
“They may claim to have been mugged, or been in a car accident, or need money for bail, or to pay customs fees to get back into the United States from another country,” the federation said in a release. “They may also pose as an attorney or law enforcement official contacting you on behalf of a friend or relative. No matter the story, they always want you to send money immediately.”
The federation said oftentimes, scammers will ask individuals to send money quickly through services like Western Union and MoneyGram, and often use false or fake IDs, making it near impossible to track them.
“Contact the money transfer service immediately to report the scam. If the money hasn’t been picked up yet, you can retrieve it, but if it has, it’s not like a check that you can stop – the money is gone,” the federation said.
The federation advises using a firewall and anti-virus and anti-spyware software on computers and phones and do not open attachments that are sent in by strangers.
They also suggest making sure a caller is legitimate by asking questions that only the real person would know, and not the scammer.
“Contact the person who they claim to be directly. If you can’t reach the person, contact someone else – a friend or relative of the person,” the federation said. “Don’t send money unless you’re sure it’s the real person you know.”
More information on these scams can be found on the AARP website, and the FCC website.
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Nicholas Vercilla is a staff reporter for the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.