11/19/2009 3:10:00 PM 'Grandma, I'm in jail and need bail money' scam targets seniors
YAVAPAI COUNTY - In recent weeks, Yavapai Sheriff's deputies took two reports of a telephone fraud targeting seniors. A caller contacts an older person claiming to be his or her grandson and shares a believable story of an involvement in an accident or criminal incident in Canada and subsequent arrest. The "grandson" asks for money to post bail and then puts a person on the line, supposedly a bail bondsman. The bondsman provides the bail amount, usually several thousand dollars, and requests that money be wired using a MoneyGram or Western Union service. In some cases the bogus "bondsman," even calls back to thank the victim.
Both Yavapai County victims were suspicious and did not send any money.
This scam appeals to the emotions the elderly who feel an immediate need to help a desperate family member. Stories range from an accident to a situation in which the "grandson" picked up a couple of hitchhikers found with drugs during a traffic stop.
Many suspects use social networking sites, such as MySpace or Facebook, to identify family members through profiles and photos. A check of online phone directories provides a telephone number and the scam is under way. In some cases, suspects find travel plans and give specific family information that makes the scheme more plausible.
A recent AARP Bulletin shares a victim's story involving the scam. The victim, over a two-day period, sent $17,000 to Canada to cover bail and lawyer's fees for her "grandson."
The scams are difficult to investigate because suspects usually reside outside the United States and often use cell phones discarded before they can be traced. Any request to wire money should be seen as a red flag, because such transfers are hard to track.