If You Get a Call Asking You to Do This, Report It, Police Warn
This dangerous scam has only become more common in recent years.
Spam calls are a dime a dozen, so most of us assume we'll know when we're dealing with someone sketchy on the end of the line. But con artists know we're onto them, and have picked up new scams and refined old techniques, meaning many Americans aren't always able to determine what's real and what's fake. According to Truecaller Insights' annual U.S. Spam and Scam Report, 68.4 million people reported losing a total of $39.5 billion to scam calls in the county in 2021 alone. Now, police are alerting Americans about one phone call that could drain your bank account. Read on to find out what you should be listening for—and reporting immediately.
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Officials have issued a number of alerts to Americans recently.
Police departments around the U.S. work to keep residents safe, and part of that work involves issuing alerts about threats in certain areas.
In June, a police department in Pennsylvania issued a warning about an increasing number of jewelry scams being reported by residents who said they were approached in a parking lot by someone attempting to sell them counterfeit jewelry or watches. And just this month, the Elkhart Police Department in Indiana alerted residents that unknown packages showing up on their doorstep could be part of an identity deception scam, which has become prevalent over the past few weeks.
But plenty of scams are as simple as a phone call—and now police in one state are warning about just that.
Police are warning about a spreading phone scam.
If you receive a call from a stranger, you should always be on alert. Depending on what's being asked of you, however, you might forget to exercise caution.
On July 9, the Montgomery County Department of Police-Financial Crimes Section in Gaithersburg, Maryland, issued a warning about a series of scam calls targeting individuals in the area from May to June. According to officials, this particular con involves a scammer who calls victims claiming to be a child or grandchild who is in jail and needs money to get released. Victims are told to call a separate number once they have the money, where they are informed that a "courier" will come to their home to collect it. But the courier—who in this particular set of scams in Gaithersburg was wearing a brown UPS-type uniform—takes the money and is never seen again.
"Anyone with information regarding this suspect or this crime is asked to call the Financial Crimes Section," police in Montgomery County warned.
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This phone scam typically targets older adults.
According to the Montgomery County police department, this scam is typically referred to as the "grandparent scam." That's because it usually targets senior citizens between the ages of 70 and 90. From May to June, three individuals aged 78 to 84 were victimized by this scam in Gaithersburg. Two of the oldest victims were told that their grandsons were in jail.
"The impostor offers just enough detail about where and how the emergency happened to make it seem plausible and perhaps turns the phone over to another scammer who pretends to be a doctor, police officer or lawyer and backs up the story," AARP warns. "The 'grandchild' implores the target to wire money immediately, adding an anxious plea: 'Don't tell Mom and Dad!'"
Officials have warned that this type of scam is on the rise.
In 2020, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned that the COVID pandemic had brought about an increase in grandparent scams. "In these days of coronavirus concerns, their lies can be particularly compelling," FTC attorney Lisa Weintraub Schifferle told AARP at the time. "They pull at your heartstrings so they can trick you into sending money before you realize it's a scam."
According to the FTC, the number one piece of advice in avoiding falling victim to this scam is resisting the urge to act immediately. According to Schifferle, you should work to verify the caller's identity, which includes steps such as asking questions a stranger couldn't possible answer, calling the phone number of the family member being referenced, and checking the story out with someone else in your family circle—even if you've been told to keep it a secret.