Over the past several months the Police Department has been hearing reports of the re-emergence of a telephone scam first seen in 2008 called the "Grandparent Scam." This scam specifically targets grandparents where they receive a telephone call from someone claiming to be a grandchild or even a nephew in need of emergency funds.
An excerpt from a San Mateo Times article dated 12/21/11 highlights how it works:
"A San Mateo County man recently wired more than $20,000 to someone he thought was his grandson. The young man had called asking for help after saying he was in a car accident in Italy that left him with two black eyes and a broken nose.
The man who sent more than $20,000 over the course of eight Western Union wire transfers never called his daughter, the boy's mother, to check out the story. The grandson scammer had asked his grandfather to keep it a secret -- the news would likely upset his mom. When the grandfather finally called, he learned his real grandson hadn't been hurt and had never left the country.
In a similar case, a woman got a call from someone claiming to be her grandson with the same story of injuries and a car accident in Italy. He said he needed $2,300 to get out of the country. However, this grandparent called her son and found out the young man was in Sacramento, not Sorrento. The Sheriff's Office said wire transfers are just like bank accounts -- they can be accessed from anywhere. Scammers can say they are in Italy but don't actually have to be there to pick up the cash."
In these cases, there is no evidence, no trace of the suspects, and no way to track who received the money. Although the crooks have not been successful here in Brisbane, the Police Department has been made aware of at least one attempt.
The Brisbane Police Department strongly urges anyone who receives a request to wire out money to be extremely cautious. If the caller claims to be a friend or a family member, confirm the story with someone else. If you are unable to do so, and are still concerned that a loved one is in need of your help, feel free to contact the Police Department and they will be glad to assist you before you send any funds. Don't take any chances - if you feel you may be the next victim in this scam, call Police Dispatch at (415) 467-1212.