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Scammers touch caring emotions of grandparents

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POSTED March 3, 2009 4:25 a.m.
A loving and sensitive set of grandparents were almost scammed out of $5,100 by a caller claiming to be their 24-year-old grandson crying that he was in jail in Canada, and needing $4,800 for bail before he could be released.
The Manteca woman answered the phone hearing a plea for help from someone who said, “Hi grandma – I need your help – I’m in jail and I need money to get out!”
She asked the crying caller, “Is that you, Johnny?”
He replied that it was, crying somewhat hysterically, obviously to disguise his voice pattern.
At this point the caller had heard the grandson’s actual name. The grandmother had given it to him when she attempted to confirm who was on the other end of the line.
Her grandson should have been in Chico where he is going to college to get his master’s degree. The story that came next sounded plausible that he had gone to a friend’s wedding in Canada, and been drinking after the reception, and was involved in a traffic accident – arrested, and being held in a Canadian jail. He desperately needed $4,800 to get out.
He told her he had the money in his account, saying he would pay them back when he got back home.
“Grandson, jail, Canada, he needs money.” Everything else was blotted out. She told her husband they needed to get Johnny money now – and that’s what they were about to do.
The caller pleaded that the Manteca grandmother send only cash via the money-gram desk at Wal-Mart to a Wal-Mart in Edmonton, Canada. He would call her back at 3:00 in the afternoon to get the identifying receipt number of the money transfer document allowing it to be picked up.
Understandably shaken by their grandson’s “believable” plight, she and her husband went to the bank, and drew the cash out of their account. They even added $300 to cover other possible unexpected charges. They had been told not to notify the grandson’s mom or dad, because it would only upset them.  He would explain everything to them when he got back into the states.
The money-gram clerk at Wal-Mart was actually their hero, they said. Debbie Washington warned them their story was similar to a scam that is running rampant where grandparents are being preyed upon to send money – sending it to a scammer for naught.
They decided to call their son and ask if he had talked to their grandson, asking if he knew exactly where he was that day.
He had talked to him just that morning, and he was in Chico at his college. There was no chance he could be in Canada. At 2:30 that afternoon the telephone in their Manteca home rang ahead of schedule – a call from the scammer in Canada – asking for the identifying number on the money-gram.
The call was answered by their daughter-in-law who was quick to ask the man on the other end of the line where he was calling from. At that point the line went dead.
On Friday the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office had sent out a warning about an “Emergency Scam” or Grandparent Scam.”
It was just a day later that the Manteca couple received a copy of the district attorney’s bulletin.
It explained that in the past few months the county has seen a dramatic increase in the often successful scam that attacks the protective emotions of grandparents.
The seniors are contacted usually late at night on the telephone with the caller saying, “Grandma (or Grandpa), it’s me!” They wait for the victim to give the name of a grandchild, and then pretend to be the person the grandparent identifies, and proceed to claim they need money for an emergency situation.
The reasons range from bail money, emergency medical care, car trouble or an accident.
The scammer desperately claims that he or she needs the money wired immediately, and begs their “grandparent” not to contact other relatives because he or she doesn’t want to “get in trouble.”
The victim is told to send the money via electronic transfer. Once the money is sent, there is almost no chance of getting it back, according to the office of the district attorney, James P. Willett.

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