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Elderly targeted in phone scam that backfires

A call to Highland County Sheriff's Department in Hillsboro, Ohio, on August 15, 2014, led an officer into discovering a phone scam that targets the elderly; however, this call backfired on the criminal.

Officer Chris Lengefield took the (HCSO) call from the angry grandmother wanting to know why the Sheriff's office was taking care of her grandson who was locked up in jail. After listening to the grandmother's complaint Lieutenant Lengefield knew the whole situation didn't make sense.

After some investigating he knew this grandmother was a victim of an elderly phone scam used to target older people into sending money via money cards thinking they were helping a family member get out of jail. The officer explained to the lady that she was victim of a phone scam and that her grandson wasn't really in jail.

Elderly phone scams target vulnerable people every day, a Knoxville woman lost $10,000 of her life savings after telling her that her grandson had been in an accident and needed money. He was in Air Force training and wanting to help she wired money and the criminals called several other times following the original transfer adding to the damage and fines until her savings was nearly empty.

Lengefield says the caller addressed her as grandma and asked who it was and he answered by saying, "You don't know who I am?" That is when she offered her granson's name and filled in details for the caller.

This grandmother questioned the scammer for not sounding like her grandson, but he assured her that he had been fighting a chest cold all week and went on to tell his story about how he landed in jail and that he needs her help to get out.

The criminal pretending to be the grandson explained that he got a ride home with someone and they got pulled over. The driver had cocaine in the trunk which he had no idea about and was arrested and needed money to get out of jail. He added that he was innocent and hungry and the deputies won't feed him and he had been incarcerated for hours. That is when the grandmother offered to help and the criminal explained how she needed to send the money, "I need you to put $500 on two Green Dot Money cards and call Officer Baker at (438) 928-####."

The convincing male, gave her the Sheriff's Office address and the officer's badge number. Lengefield said, “Grandma then called me to yell at me for not feeding her grandson. I'm thankful she did, because it was determined to be a scam attempt. Her grandson was not in jail and the phone number the male used originated from another country.”

If grandma had put cash on the cards and gave the numbers to the scammer the criminal would then own the card and money on them; leaving her worried about her grandson, and $1,000 missing from her account. This time the scam artist targeted the wrong grandmother and fortunately, she was angry and skeptical enough to call the Sheriff’s Office.

The HCSO advises anyone receiving a suspicious call such as this to call local law enforcement officials. Officers do not use credit card information, Green Dot money cards or wire transfers to get someone out of jail. The officers would not mistreat inmates while being held after an arrest, if you get this type of call, be sure to return a call to the local Sheriff’s Department to report it. Caller I.D. will show when a law enforcement office is calling and will include a local number. It is best to always call back to make sure the call is legit.

There are many other money scams and identity thieves’ who will do anything to get their hands on your money. Knowing what kind of scams are going around is your best defense says the HCSO. And not all scams are by strangers, at times a caregiver, family member; friend or neighbor will isolate a senior from others and take advantage of their money and property.