VSP warning the public of the "Grandparent Scam"

Courtesy of FBI.GOV
Courtesy of FBI.GOV (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Virginia State Police say they're receiving calls regarding the "Grandparent Scam" in Southwest Virginia - stating the region is being targeted once again.

State police said this type of scam usually starts up around college Spring Break when students are in Cancun, the Caribbean, etc.

They said the scam works like this:

  • A grandparent receives a phone call (or sometimes an e-mail) from a "grandchild." If it is a phone call, it's often late at night or early in the morning when most people aren't thinking that clearly. Usually, the person claims to be traveling in a foreign country and has gotten into a bad situation, like being arrested for drugs, getting in a car accident, or being mugged…and needs money wired ASAP. And the caller doesn't want his or her parents told.
  • Sometimes, instead of the "grandchild" making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer, a doctor at a hospital, or some other person. And we've also received complaints about the phony grandchild talking first and then handing the phone over to an accomplice…to further spin the fake tale.
  • Military families are also victimized: after perusing a soldier's social networking site, a con artist will contact the soldier's grandparents, sometimes claiming that a problem came up during military leave that requires money to address.
  • While it's commonly called the grandparent scam, criminals may also claim to be a family friend, a niece or nephew, or another family member.

What to do if you have been scammed. The financial losses in these cases, while they can be substantial for an individual, usually several thousand dollars per victim, typically don't meet the FBI's financial thresholds for opening an investigation.

The FBI recommends contacting your local authorities or state consumer protection agency if you think you've been victimized. The FBI also suggests you file a complaint with IC3, which not only forwards complaints to the appropriate agencies, but also collates and analyzes the data, looking for common threads that link complaints and help identify the culprits.

And, the FBI's advice to avoid being victimized in the first place:

  • Resist the pressure to act quickly.
  • Try to contact your grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate.
  • Never wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an e-mail...especially overseas. Wiring money is like giving cash—once you send it, you can't get it back.

For more information on this type of scam, click here.