So many of the phone calls we get are spam. Whether it’s someone getting in touch about car insurance or telling us we’ve won a cruise, these calls aren’t worth the time it takes to answer the phone.
But stay on long enough and give them the right information, and you could lose a good chunk of cash.
John Eidt, a licensed private investigator and the president of Touchstone Investigation Bureau in DeLand, said scams — especially those targeting senior citizens — are more common than people may think.
Scammers, Eidt said, often tug on their victims’ heartstrings to get them to lower their guard.
Eidt told about one DeLand woman who was recently tricked by a telephone call from someone posing as the woman’s grandson.
“It’s a scam that’s been around for a long time. I know I’ve gotten calls from my ‘grandson,’” Eidt said.
Late one night, the DeLand resident received a phone call from a person claiming to be her grandson, who also lives in DeLand.
The phony grandson claimed to have driven up to Pennsylvania for a friend’s funeral, where he had been in a car accident and was charged with reckless driving.
The “grandson” claimed his bond was set at $9,000, which he needed as soon as possible, and had called his “grandparent” to ask for it. The grandparent said she did not have $9,000.
On the line with the grandson was another person claiming to be his public defender, who said the judge had been able to reduce the bond by several thousand dollars to an amount the grandparent said she did have.
“If people believe it’s one of their loved ones, they’ll do anything to help them,” Eidt said.
The grandparent mailed cash to someone she believed was her grandson, and the scammers asked her not to tell anyone about sending the money so the fake grandson could save face. However, the grandparent ended up telling a friend who thought it sounded fishy.
Now, with thousands of dollars gone, the DeLand Police Department is investigating, but Eidt worries the investigation is unlikely to result in restoration of the victim’s cash.
“Because it was sent in cash, I’m sure the money is long gone,” he said. “As soon as the perpetrators make the score, they fold their tents and go.”
Want to avoid this happening to you? Eidt said to look for possible clues that the person you’re talking to isn’t who they say they are.
“Ask some things only your grandchild would know. What your middle name is, or your maiden name,” he suggested. “Just something to verify that they really were who they said they were.”
Anytime money is involved, make sure you know exactly who you’re dealing with, and always have the correct phone numbers and addresses for family members. It also can’t hurt to talk to someone else to prevent any rash decisions.
“Before you send money, you should at least talk to somebody else in the family and make sure it’s really a legitimate thing,” Eidt added.
The “grandchild scam” isn’t new, but having information on your side is half the battle.
“If it wasn’t something that worked, they wouldn’t be doing it. The fact it’s been around as long as it has is evidence it does work,” Eidt said.
Eidt said he intends to continue looking for information on this case of fraud, but he hopes having a little more information about this scam will prevent more people from losing money to cunning fraudsters preying on older Volusia County residents.