Archive for Thursday, October 15, 2009

Callers pose as family to scam elderly

October 15, 2009

People posing as residents’ grandchildren incarcerated in Canada are the latest phone scammers victimizing local residents.

Tonganoxie police officer Tom Wiles said Thursday there were two reports in the past two weeks of the specific phone scams.

Wiles said it’s likely scammers are finding elderly people’s phone numbers and other information on the Internet and calling them posing as a grandchild in dire need of help.

When person answers the phone, the scammer replies “Grandpa?” or “Grandma?” The officer said the person on the line informs the elderly person that the person is in jail in Canada and needs bail money.

“They will tell you where the nearest Western Union or Money Gram is,” Wiles said. “And tell you where you need to wire them the money. Once money is wired, normally they will call back and say they will need more money.”

Wiles reported that one scam cost a caller $3,500 and another nearly $6,000. From supposed lottery winnings to purchases through the Internet, scams are numerous.

Wiles provided these tips in dealing with potential scams:

• If someone tells you won the lottery over the phone or e-mail, but you have to send them money, that’s a scam. “Number one, if it sounds too good to be true it is,” Wiles said.

• Don’t give out any personal information about yourself over the phone.

• A “big red flag” is if someone tells you not to tell anyone about this matter.

• Never give out credit card numbers or bank account numbers through the phone.

• Be equally careful when it comes to someone calling about energy bills. “If they’re going to shut off electricity or gas, you would have received many notices prior to that being done,” Wiles said. “If they say they’re the electric company, hang up and call the electric company, the number you have for them.”

• If someone’s purchasing an item from you through the Internet, be cautious. If the buyer sends a money order for more than the price agreed upon, it’s probably a scam.

Wiles said a call to the bank can determine whether it’s a scam. He also said in instances in which the money order is for more than the price of the item, the person asks that you send back the difference in a money order — a certain scam.

• Type in an address for a link rather than clicking on a link in an e-mail.

• Wiles also advised scammers can become aggressive.

“They will tell you they know where you live,” Wiles said. “They will threaten bodily harm to you if they don’t get what they are asking for.” If anyone receives calls of this nature, Wiles said they should hang up and call Tonganoxie police (913) 369-3754. Residents outside the Tonganoxie city limits should call the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office at (913) 724-1313.

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