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Friday, January 27, 2012

SFPD Targets "Western Union Grandmother" Scammers

Posted By on Fri, Jan 27, 2012 at 4:20 PM

'What's that? You're in Khartoum?'
  • 'What's that? You're in Khartoum?'

The San Francisco Police Department is urging older city residents to be on their guard against a form of fraud that many a concerned grandparent could fall for.

It's known as the "Western Union Grandmother/Grandfather" scam. A con artist calls an elderly person, frantically stating something along the lines of, "Grandma! It's me! I'm in jail." (Most of us probably wouldn't place our first call from the clink to grandma or grandpa, but so be it.)

"The caller claims to be in some sort of peril at a distant location and in need of money immediately," according to a press release from the SFPD issued today. "For instance, the caller claims to have been mugged or arrested while traveling on vacation. The suspect asks the victim to wire money by Western Union, Money Gram or similar means."

Additionally, "The caller will often express embarrassment and ask the victim to keep the information 'just between us.'"

How to combat grandmother/grandfather scammers? Police suggest asking questions a stranger might not know, such as "What is the name of your dog?" Potential victims fielding suspicious calls can also request to call back the "family member," using a number provided by another relative, rather than by the scammer himself.

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Peter Jamison

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