The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center issued a warning Wednesday about the long-running “Grandparent Scam,” after continuing to receive reports about this insidious scheme that I first wrote about last summer (Sept. 1: “‘Grandkid in distress’ may be cruelest hoax of all”).
Ike, not his real name, told the Journal he received a frantic telephone call Tuesday afternoon from someone impersonating his great-grandson.
“Grandpa, I need your help,” he said in tears, explaining that he had been caught in a “marijuana trap” in Las Vegas and needed money to post bail.
He then put someone on the phone who identified himself as a “Captain Neil,” who told Ike he would be able to release his great-grandson if he put $5,000 on prepaid debit cards and called back with the numbers.
Since there is a $500 limit on Green Dot debit cards, Ike then proceeded to purchase 10 of the cards as instructed at a nearby CVS.
During this time, Ike did try to reach his great-grandson on his cellphone but was only able to leave a message. Shortly thereafter, Ike received a call back from the impersonator and shared the numbers listed on the back of the prepaid debit cards with “Captain Neil.”
It wasn’t until his real great-grandson called back 30 minutes later that Ike realized that he had been scammed.
After being told by the Albuquerque Police Department and the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office that there was little they could do, he contacted the Federal Trade Commission and filed a formal complaint.
Still, the damage had been done.
“They told me flat out that I just lost my money,” he said.
Ike’s experience is consistent with the details contained in the FBI’s consumer warning. Recipients of such a call are advised to:
■ Resist any pressure to act quickly.
■ Verify the information is legitimate by contacting the loved one in question before taking any action.
■ Never wire money in response to a phone call or email, especially if the ultimate destination is overseas. Once you wire money to someone, it’s impossible to get it back.
Sadly, the same holds true for prepaid debit cards.
“It is a convincing call,” Ike said, “no question about it.”
Individuals who have fallen victim to this scheme are encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.