Better Business Bureau of Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula is warning consumers to be on the lookout for a resurgence of the "grandparent scam," which is again targeting victims in Michigan.
According to the Michigan Attorney General's Office, in one instance, Michigan grandparents were taken for $33,000. They wire transferred $3,000 to someone they thought was their grandson after he called and claimed he was caught fishing without a license in Canada and needed to pay a $3,000 fine. They were taken for an additional $30,000 after the supposed grandson called again to say that alcohol and drugs were found when his boat was searched, and he needed $30,000 to post bond to get out of a Canadian jail.
"Once you send money to Canada, there's no hope of getting it back," said Patrick Bennett, BBB Director of Community Relations. "A good rule of thumb is to never wire money out of the country unless you initiated contact with that relative or friend and you know for a fact they are where they say they are."
Another variation of this scam involves two scammers - the first scammer calls and poses as a grandchild under arrest. The second scammer, posing as some type of law enforcement officer, then gets on the phone with the grandparent and explains what fines need to be paid. Alternatively, the scammer may pretend to be a family friend or neighbor. A common theme of the scam across the nation is the caller's request for the grandparent to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram or to provide bank account routing numbers. Wire transfers of money are nearly impossible to trace and typically cannot be recovered from the telephone con artists.
BBB offers the following tips to protect against this scam:
- Don't fill in the blanks for the caller: In other words, the scammer may ask leading questions like: "Hello grandma; do you know who this is?" Do not provide the name they are seeking.
- Ask a lot of questions that have answers only your family should knowlike: "What's your daughter's name?" or "How old were you when? "You'll learn quickly enough if it's a con artist", says Bennett.
- Do whatever is necessary to confirm your relative's whereabouts. Get off the phone and call your grandchild's home, school or work to verify what you've been told.
Don't wire money. If a caller asks for your bank account number or urges you to wire money for any reason, it's likely a scam. Cons prefer wire transfers because they are fast, and funds can be picked up easily and just about anywhere.
If you are a victim of this scam file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, 877-382-4357, the Michigan Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, 877-765-8388 or contact the BBB at (248)223-9400 for more information