Grandkids, kids, nieces and nephews: Now is a really good time for you to sit down your elders and tell them that you will likely never be locked up in a prison or stranded abroad and in need of large sums of money. Or heck, maybe set up a password — “Grandma, if I ever call and yell ‘BINGO!’ into the phone you’ll know it’s me and it’s safe to send me money.”
Otherwise they could end up like a recent victim of a Grandparent Scam, a woman who lost $250,000 to a scammer pretending to be her grandson, trapped in a Peruvian prison.
This scam story is notable in that it wasn’t just a one-time money order or a single transmission of money, but a long-term effort by a scam artist that netted the perpetrator or perpetrators a whopping $250,000, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Police say the scammer spent weeks lying to the woman over the phone, claiming the grandson had been the instigator in a fight and he needed money for the legal process. The first call came in the middle of August from a man saying he was a U.S. Embassy official, and each time the scammers asked for more money.
All told, the woman sent $250,000 of her savings overseas.
“When she talked to someone she thought was with the U.S. embassy, he said it was a sensitive foreign matter and not to discuss this with anyone,” a police captain. “They said he needed this much money to go on to the next stage.”
She finally reported the scam this week after her bank put the skids on a final transaction, noting that it was a bit suspicious. She got in touch with another family member who confirmed that no, her grandson was not in South America and definitely not incarcerated.
“Unfortunately, it took awhile but they have stop gaps in place for suspicious activity,” the police captain explained. “She was tapping into mutual funds and things of that nature. At this time, the money is lost. It has been wired to a foreign country.”
He says police will try to track down the suspects, but because scammers can use disposable phones and other tactics that are hard to trace, it might be a difficult job.
Grandma H. and Grandma Q.: If I ever end up in a foreign prison I will not call and ask you for money. You’ll know I’m really in trouble when I request your chicken noodle soup or chocolate chip cookies, respectively.
Chesterfield woman lost $250,000 in phone hoax to free jailed grandson [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]