Sacto 9-1-1
July 31, 2010
Sacramento PD warns crooks trying 'grandmother' scam

By Chelsea Phua

cphua@sacbee.com

The man on the phone sounded like her 24-year-old grandson, Sacramento resident Doris McRoberts said.

He told her he and some friends had been involved in a car accident in Ontario, Canada, and needed $3,000 to pay for the cost of repairs.

She would have sent the money, but for a Wells Fargo bank employee who felt something was not quite right and made McRoberts promise that she would consult family members before sending the money.

It's a good thing McRoberts has never broken a promise.

She called her daughter. Her real grandson, as it turned out, was in Berkeley during the time of the alleged accident, and didn't call grandma for money.

"We've seen an increase in these type of scams," Sacramento police spokesman Officer Konrad von Schoech.

Known as the "Grandmother" scam, the con artist poses as a grandchild or a friend of the grandchild and tells grandma or grandpa that he or she is in jail, in trouble or is sick.

"It's usually a tragic situation which the scammer requests to be kept secret," von Schoech said.

If the victim can't share the information, the victim can't verify if it's true, von Schoech said.

"But the best thing to do is verify that the situation that someone is posing to you actually exists," von Schoech said.

And never give personal or financial information over the phone, or agree to meet someone you don't know.

McRoberts also has a few words of wisdom - gained from hindsight. She has two grandsons, but the scammer never specified which of the two he was, and she just assumed he was the older one.

"When they say they are your grandchild, ask, "Which one are you?'" McRoberts said.

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