October 29th, 2011 – Sea Girt Police Department are warning the public of a phone scam that is preying on grandparents nationwide.  We have received two reports this week where residents of Sea Girt have been contacted by a person, claiming to be their grandchild who is in trouble.  While this scam has been around for years, it has become more sophisticated due to the increased amount of information available over the internet.

On October 24, and again on October 27th this department received reports of this scam.  The typical scenario for this scam involves a grandparent receiving a phone call from a person who claims to be their grandchild (or other family member.)  The caller says they are out of the country and in some type of trouble, and in need of money to pay a bill, or pay bail.  The need for money immediately is stressed throughout the call and may even involve a follow up call from an official claiming to be from the U.S. Embassy.

The story used in the first incident involved the caller saying they were arrested in Ontario, Canada and needed money wired immediately to bail them out of jail.  In the second incident the caller claimed to be in a car accident in a rental car in Barcelona, Spain and needed money wired immediately to pay the bill to the rental company before they could leave the country.  This call involved a follow up call from a person claiming to be from the U. S. Embassy in Spain, adding a perception of authenticity to the situation.

With increased popularity of social networking and genealogy research websites, more and more information is readily available on the internet for con-artists to exploit.   The con-artists employing these scams now have information available to them to make the calls sound more authentic by using the names of other family members or friends in the conversation.

While a grandparent may want to rush to the aid of their distressed grandchild or other family member, it is important to make sure all you receive all the facts and not give in to the urge to send money immediately.

Protect yourself:

  • Resist the pressure to “act now.  Don’t panic and take the time to verify the story.
  • Ask yourself, “Is my grandchild really out of the country?”
  • Try to contact your grandchild’s mother or father even if the caller tells you not to call them.
  • Know who you are dealing with.  If a person claims to be from a U. S. Embassy, call them back at a phone number you find for the Embassy, not the number they give to you.
  • A simple search on the internet may unravel a con-artists story.  You may find phone numbers and addresses used in the story may not match the actual phone numbers and addresses of police stations, embassies, hospitals, or other places where you are asked to send money.
  • Be wary of unsolicited emails, telephone calls, or mail attempting to extract money from you or asking you to transfer money electronically or urgently.
  • If you in doubt, call your local police department!