By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Front Royal police have a warning for grandparents: If a grandchild calls and says he needs money to get out of jail in a foreign county, check it out. It may be a scam.
One couple recently lost $2,600 to a phony caller claiming to be their grandson, said Detective Cpl. Kevin Foltz. Another couple saw $5,400 disappear last year in a similar incident, he said.
The crimes are part of a national trend in which a grandparent receives a telephone call from someone identifying himself as "your favorite grandson" or using a similar greeting.
Foltz said the person on the other end of the line, often speaking through a phone connection that sounds weak or scratchy, counts on the recipient of the call to say the name of the grandchild, thereby allowing the stranger to pass himself off as the grandchild in the remainder of the conversation.
Foltz explained the rest of the scam involves a plea for a sum of money that will allow the grandchild impersonator to be released from jail in a foreign country, typically Mexico or Canada. The recipient of the phone call receives directions for wiring money through a company such as Western Union.
Foltz said the caller is then told he will be receiving another phone call, sometimes from a person posing as a magistrate, judge or lawyer, to obtain the money pickup code. Once the money is sent, the victim may receive another call asking for more money to cover "added expenses," he said.
The scam artist may also urge the victim not to speak to anyone else about the transaction, citing reasons such as embarrassment or job loss.
Foltz said once the money has left the country, it is almost impossible to regain it or arrest the scam artist.
The victims of the grandparent scam are often savvier than average, but still find themselves taken in by scam artists with polished acts, Foltz said.
"The people that are scammed, they're intelligent people," Foltz said. "These people who (commit fraud) they're professionals, they know what they're doing, they know how to do it."
Foltz said grandparents should call their grandchildren and verify their whereabouts before sending money in reply to a phone caller from a foreign country pleading for money.
People who suspect they have been targeted for a scam by computer, telephone, or mail are asked to call the police at 635-2111 and have them investigate the evidence for signs of fraud.