Sacto 9-1-1
September 18, 2009
Sacramento woman warns of 'Grandma' scam attempt

Margie Allen, 91, of Sacramento called The Bee this afternoon wanting to warn other seniors about a scam attempt that unnerved her Friday morning.

Allen said a phone caller claiming to be her grandson said he was arrested on drunken driving charges in Canada and needed $2,500 immediately. Allen said she didn't wire the money, but called her son to ask about the whereabouts of her grandchildren.

Allen was upset about the ordeal, and wanted to spread the word about the attempted scam.

Sacto 911 has posted several "Grandma" scam attempt stories the past two years, including a report of a spate of attempts in January in the Redding area. As reported then, Redding police said there are several variations of the scam, but the most common one involves a late-night phone call from someone who starts the conversation by saying something similar to "Hi Grandma. Guess who this is?"

When the victim uses the name of one of their grandchildren, the caller pretends to be that person and asks for money.

In several cases, the scammer says they have been arrested and need bail money. The caller is always out of the area and needs money right away.

Victims are asked to send money through Western Union or MoneyGram. If they caller says they need money for bail, they say they have a friend who will pick up the money.

Sometimes the caller will put another person on the phone who claims to be a law enforcement officer or jailer.

The money is sent out of the country in the majority of the cases.

Redding police offer the following suggestions to avoid becoming a victim:

• If you get a call from someone saying "Guess who this is," respond with "I don't know. Who is it?"

• If the caller knows your name and the name of the person they are claiming to be, confirm their identity by asking personal questions like their birth date, mother's name and the name of the street where they lived as a child.

• If they say they are in jail or at a police station, ask which one and the phone number so you can call back. Use directory assistance or the Internet to confirm the phone number and call back if needed.

• Call the parents of the person they are claiming to be and confirm the caller's whereabouts.

Police also suggest using extreme caution when sending money by Western Union or MoneyGram.

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