August 9, 2011
Local police personally thanked Delaware Wal-Mart employees for helping prevent a relatively new scam targeting the elderly.
The “Grandma Scam” preys on senior citizens who are likely to have good credit or own their own homes.
Two such Delaware city residents appeared to have fallen victim to this scam when they attempted to get money orders to send funds outside the country, according to the Delaware City Police Department.
In both cases, Wal-Mart employees recognized the signs of the scam, asked the appropriate questions and thwarted a ploy that could have cost the grandparents thousands of dollars, the DCPD reported.
Delaware Police Chief Russ Martin personally thanked the employees Aug. 12, commending them for their “care and concern for the customers.”
The scam begins with the caller asking, “Grandma?” and waiting for the person on the other end to guess a name. Posing as a grandchild, the scammer then emotionally describes an emergency in which he or she urgently needs money.
The emergency could entail money to get out of jail or to pay for medical costs. The Delaware County Sheriff’s Department said that some scammers have asked for money to pay for a car accident, speaking as though they have an injured jaw wired shut.
Callers may also pose as officers or lawyers representing the grandchild in court.
Donna Meyer, associate communications director at the Council for Older Adults in Delaware County (COA), said the scammer may be able to sprinkle the story with family facts gleaned from Facebook.
The DCPD said the Grandma Scam has already cost one Delaware city resident more than $13,000.
The resident did not realize it was a scam until she happened to see the grandson who the scammer had said was out of the country, the COA reported in its newsletter.
COA also included the story of a Powell resident who lost $3,500 to the Grandma Scam last month.
In a release, Martin advised those who receive such calls to have the caller state the child’s name and age and demand every detail of the situation. These details should include the name of the jail and the specific criminal charges, or the name and location of the hospital.
Charlene Browning, executive director of Senior Citizens, Inc. considered the Grandma Scam relatively new, having first heard about it a few months ago.
In July, the DCSO announced its investigation of the Grandparent Scam.
About one or two scams targeting the elderly crop up each year, according to Browning. The one she sees most often involves a caller claiming that the resident has won a large sum of money. In that scheme, the caller asks the senior citizen to send a money order, usually out of the country, to collect the winnings.
Others include friendly “telemarketers” who persuade residents to reveal credit card and bank account numbers in order to buy nonexistent merchandise. Some may pose as Medicare representatives seeking bank account information to activate new benefits, according to COA.
Browning said that grandparents could prevent becoming victims by asking questions only the grandchild would know. She also suggested asking a question about a non-existant family member to see if the scammer pretends to know that person.
“They’re deplorable,” said Meyer of the scammers. “A lot of older adults are embarrassed to admit they have fallen victim to these types of predators. I can’t imagine how people could do this to older adults in our community.”
The COA and Senior Citizens, Inc. have scheduled a Health and Safety Day on Oct. 27 to educate seniors about protecting themselves physically and financially.
To report a scam, contact the Delaware Police Department at 740-203-1111 or the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office at 740-833-2800. Scams can also be reported to the Ohio Attorney General’s office at ohioattorneygeneral.gov/ReportaScam.aspx.