BLOOMFIELD, NJ-- Be advised, con artists are scamming grandparents out of thousands of dollars by posing as grandchildren in distress. In one instance in Bloomfield, grandparents were taken for over $18,000. They followed direction from someone they thought was their grandson after he called and claimed he was in a car accident and then arrested by police. Then a suspect claiming to be an attorney got on the phone and told the victim that if they pay $18,800.00 dollars, his grandson would be released on bail. The “attorney” instructed the victim to withdraw the money, place it in a padded envelope then place the envelope in a box. The victim was told a “courier” was in the area and would pick up the box from the victims residence. A short time later, a “courier” arrived at the victims home, entered the house and took the box.

How the Scam Works;
A grandparent receives a frantic call from someone they believe to be their grandchild. The supposed grandchild sounds distressed and may be calling from a noisy location. The supposed grandchild claims to be involved in some type of trouble while traveling, such as being arrested or in a car accident or needing emergency car repairs, and asks the grandparent to immediately send money to post bail or pay for medical treatment or car repairs. The scammer typically asks for several thousand dollars, and may even call back again several hours or days later asking for more money. He or she may claim embarrassment about the alleged trouble and ask the grandparent to keep it a secret.

A variation of the scam may involve two scammers -- the first scammer calls and poses as a grandchild under arrest. The second scammer, posing as some type of law enforcement officer, then gets on the phone with the grandparent and explains what fines need to be paid. Alternatively, the scammer may pretend to be a family friend or neighbor.
A common theme of the scam across the nation is the caller's request for the grandparent to wire money through Western Union or Money Gram or to provide bank account routing numbers or leave cash in a designated area for a “courier” to pick up. Wiring money is like sending cash; there are no protections for the sender. Typically, there is no way you can reverse the transaction, trace the money, or recover payment from the telephone con artists.

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It is possible that the scammers are finding their targets on the Internet. Names, addresses, birth dates, and telephone numbers are easily ascertained online. Scammers may also check Facebook or other social networking websites to learn about someone's vacation plans, (especially during spring and summer months when many families take vacations), and then contact that person's grandparent pretending to be the real grandchild. Another possibility is that the scammers are calling telephone numbers randomly until they reach a senior citizen. In some cases, the senior citizen unknowingly "fills in the blanks" for the thief. For instance, the senior answers the phone, the scammer says something like, "Hi Grandma, it's me, your favorite grandchild," the grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the caller sounds most like, and the scammer takes on that grandchild's identity for the remainder of the call.

How to Avoid Being Scammed
Be suspicious when you receive a telephone call where:
• A grandchild calls you from a far-away location.
• The grandchild says, "It's me," or "It's your grandson," or "It's your favorite grandchild."
• The grandchild is in some trouble or some type of distress.
• The caller asks for money to be wire transferred or a cash pick-up.

If you receive such a call, you should verify the identity and location of the grandchild claiming to be in trouble. You should hang up and call another family member who can confirm your grandchild's whereabouts. Try calling your grandchild at the telephone number through which you normally reach him or her. Stay calm and avoid acting out of a sense of urgency. Do not wire money unless you have verified with an independent third party that your grandchild is truly in trouble.

In addition, never give out any personal identifying information such as bank account or credit card numbers to anyone who calls you on the phone. As in the Grandparents Scam, con artists will lie, cheat, steal, and make up plausible stories to convince you to wire money or divulge sensitive information. The callers are often professional criminals who are skillfully able to get you to wire money or give personal information before you have time to properly assess the situation.

"It’s unfortunate that we have a criminal element that would prey on our cherished elders and the BPD will work tirelessly to protect them. Educating our seniors on how not to become victims is paramount, and we will use all means to accomplish this" , said Bloomfield Public Safety Director Samuel DeMaio.