The phone rings. The voice on the other end sounds frantic. It is from someone claiming to be a loved one stuck in a foreign country and in need of money.
John Cline got this kind of phone call. The voice on the other end said it was his grandson. He was stuck in Lima, Peru after getting into a car accident. He needed money.
"I thought… it sounded just like him,” Cline said.
Seniors want to help
Another person got on the phone claiming to be with the American Embassy in Peru. That clinched the deal. The man told Cline to wire $2,800 by the end of the day or his grandson would miss his flight home.
Cline wanted to help who he thought was his grandson. He went to a Western Union to wire the money. That is when employees started to question Cline.
"She said to me, you know, I just got a bad feeling about this. I really hate to see you lose your money. She said, 'I think this maybe a scam,'" Cline said.
Employees at the store said they stopped another customer from making the same mistake days before Cline’s visit.
"The red flags were up for us. We have Western Union training to prevent those types of things from going through,” said store director Jaysen Pauley.
Scam getting more sophisticated
It is called the"grandparent scam." It especially targets people in their 80s and 90s, who may have a tougher time discerning voices.
Recent reports show the scammers are getting more sophisticated by calling grandparents and using the names of family members who claim to be in trouble in another country. They also put someone on the line who claims to be with the American Embassy, to make it even more legitimate.
Cline does not know how the caller got his name or his grandson’s name. In some cases, however, the grandparent inadvertently gives the name, by saying "is that you, Jimmy?"
Cline feels lucky, and now want to warn others. "I figured if I could just save one person from sending money out and losing it on a scam like this, it's worth talking to somebody about,” Cline said.
What to do if you get called
The Better Business Bureau recommends some tips if you receive a call from someone claiming to be a relative in need of help.
1) Confirm the story by calling the person back or calling another family member.
2) Limit personal information on sites like Facebook, where thieves can find names of your family members.
3) Contact the FBI to report the call.
As always, don't waste your money.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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