A telephone fraud scheme known as the "grandparent scam" that preys on trusting seniors around the globe has come to Central Oregon as well - but the intended victims didn't fall for it, police said Saturday, urging others to be very wary of anyone claiming to be a grandchild in need of big sums of cash wired to them.
In the latest case, a Bend-area woman told police Friday she got a phone call from a man who said he was her grandson, said Lt. Ken Mannix.
The caller told the woman he was in jail in Canada and asked her to wire $3,000 to him, from Safeway or Kroger's (Fred Meyer's parent firm, but not the local name), Mannix said.
The caller never supplied personal information, Mannix said.
"As the phone call continued, the victim became increasingly suspicious and asked several questions relating to the caller's reported relationship to her," Mannix said in a news release.
"The caller was evasive in his responses," the lieutenant said, "and when questioned further, he ended the phone conversation."
Verna Lisle, a concerned senior citizen in Bend, said, "Sometimes as we get older, we don't realize the fact that people are trying to get our money that we've worked so hard for."
It's not the first such recent incident in Central Oregon, as others have been reported in Redmond and Madras.
Last November, A Redmond couple got a phone call from a young man saying their grandson had been arrested after getting drunk at a wedding and wrecking a rental car.
The caller wanted money to get their grandson out of jail. When the man questioned the youth, he said his calling card was running out and hung up.
"Elderly people are getting calls from somebody who reports to be a nephew and that they're in jail and that they need money," Stenkamp said. "Generally it's wiring money out of the country, obviously. And once it's with Western Union and they pick it up, there's no way to trace it from there."
While seniors are already among the most vulnerable in our population to scam artists, this tactic preys on their fading memory.
"We're very vulnerable, you know," said senior Paul Schultz. We get so many of those calls about your transmission needs fixing or you need new insurance. These things come across all the time."
But thankfully, there's one simple thing to do when you're the slightest bit suspicious.
"Just hang up," said Schultz said.
Mannix urged anyone receiving similar suspicious phone calls to avoid acting on their requests and to contact police immediately.
Also, anyone who has received a phone call of this nature is being asked to contact police in their area to report the incident.
Mannix noted that the "grandparent scam" is just one of many kinds of fraud criminals seek to commit over the phone, including sweepstakes and lottery frauds, loan fraud, buying club memberships and credit card scams.
The warning is familiar: "People should never send money or give out personal information such as credit card numbers and expiration dates, bank account numbers, dates of birth or Social Security numbers to unknown persons."
Another familiar scam reappeared in Central Oregon this week, as hundreds if not thousands of cell phone users got text messages about a problem with their presumed Bank of the Cascades account and a number to call, where people heard a voice mail asking for all sorts of personal info, such as credit card numbers.