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‘Grandparent Scam’ hits close to home

We’ve all gotten those strange phone calls from numbers we don’t know or from people we don’t know.

Recently, Enumclaw resident Genevieve Bolson received two phone calls from someone claiming to be a grandchild of hers.

The first time Bolson was called, she said she listened to a fair amount of the phone conversation. It was a quite lengthy and detailed call, she said, but halfway through she knew it was a hoax and had heard enough.

“I told them they should know I was taping the call and they immediately hung up,” Bolson said.

Not long after, Bolson received another call. But this time she didn’t listen to much of the call before telling them she was taping it.

The callers were posing as a grandchild of Bolson saying that they were hurt and needed money sent to them.

She credits them for being clever in the way they ask for the money. The callers wanted her to draw cash out and wire the money to a foreign country where an agent would send the money back to the appropriate place.

“They make it so convincing,” she said.

Bolson isn’t alone. Her brother’s neighbor was recently hit by a scammer as well and almost sent the money.

The neighbor sent her daughter to the bank to withdraw the requested $2,000. Bolson said the bank teller asked what the money was for. That’s when the teller stopped them and let them know that they were being scammed, she added.

“If the bank teller hadn’t been alert,” Bolson said. “She could have sent the money.”

This scam is nothing new. It is known as the “Grandparent Scam.”

In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission recorded more than 40,000 cases of scammers impersonating family or friends. And many of these scams go unreported.

And thousands of dollars are lost every year by people falling for the grandparent scam as well as other phone scams.

In 2011, it was reported that 25,500 older Americans sent $110 million to scammers who posed as family members in distress.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation warns people to resist the need to act quickly and send the money right away. Be skeptical and trust your gut feeling if you receive phone calls similar to these.

The FBI also suggests asking detailed questions to the person on the phone that only your true grandchild or family member would know. Ask for a phone number to call them back on and finally after hanging up the phone, call your grandchild or their parents and check on them.

The FBI also wants to inform people that wiring money is similar to sending cash, you cannot get the money back once it is sent.

According to information on the Washington State Office of the Attorney General’s website you can avoid and detect a scam by not filling in the blanks for the scammer. If you ask more questions to understand the situation like what grandchild is calling, it is likely that the scammer will hang up.

“Even if this just helps save one person,” Bolson said. “It is good to get this information out to people.”

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