Boise Police Department
News Release

William L. Bones
Chief of Police

Contact: BPD Media Relations Office


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Phone Scam Victimizes Seniors; Old Con - New Victims

Boise, Oct. 31, 2012 - Boise Police are warning citizens of a recent phone scam that's victimized two area seniors within the past week, taking each for a loss of several thousand dollars. It's known as the "grandparents scam" where the caller claims to be a grandchild in trouble and in need of money. These scams are not new, but sadly, they continue to claim victims.

"These scams play on the victim's emotions and fears. The emotions get people to act before they take time to check the facts. When they find out it's a scam, unfortunately the money is often gone and there's not much we can do to get it back," said Det. Wade Spain of the Boise Police Property and Financial Crimes Unit. 

According to the AARP, last year, more than 25,500 older Americans reported sending $110 million to scammers posing as family members and claiming an injury or arrest in a foreign country.

"These calls often come from outside the country," says Det. Spain. "We want seniors to know it's tough, but not to let their emotions get the best of them. Should they recieve a call like this, hang up and call a relative to check the facts. Don't ever give up any information over the phone, like names that can give a scammer information to make their con sound even more personal and alarming."

How the Scam Works: The caller claims to be a "grandchild" then claims he's in some kind of trouble -- auto accident, overdue rent, minor brush with the law -- and needs money to fix the situation. The caller may also say something like "Can you please help? But don't tell mom. She'd kill me if she found out!" 

Don't Fall Victim: AARP reports say every day, hundreds of grandparents fall for this scam. Here's what Boise Police and the AARP recommend to avoid becomming a victim:

1. Don't be fooled by detailed greetings such as "Hi, Grandma, it's Billy!" Many get names and details from online directories, social networking websites or obituaries. Some hack into emails.

2. No matter where they say they are, the scammers typically are in Canada — using numbers that can easily be disguised or using disposable cellphones that are very difficult to track.

3. Scammers often ask for wire transfers because with a reference number and phony ID, they can retrieve that money anywhere. "Wiring money is like giving cash," says the FBI. "Once you send it, you can't get it back."

4. The crooks have done their homework on your familyand often pose as police officers, attorneys or hospital workers.

5. When a suspicious caller says, "Please don't tell Mom and Dad,"show your love the better way: Hang up the phone and contact your grandchild or another family member to get the facts.

Educate Seniors: "We're hoping education can help our senior citizens avoid being victimized," said Det. Spain. "If people have a senior family member or neighbor, please share this information with them.

We appreciate the recent victims coming forward. Hopefully their stories can prevent this same thing from happening to others."

Additional Resources:

These links have valuable information to prevent falling victim to a scam or fraud: