A new warning from the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s office is the latest to alert senior citizens of a telephone fraud now known as “Grandparent Scam” or “Emergency Scam.” Usually the caller pretends to be a grandchild in need of emergency money.
Mary Baldi, 89, of McCloud, is the latest victim of this fraud, and she still can’t believe it happened to her.
According to a press release from the sheriff’s office dated April 8, they received a report from Mary Baldi, who said she had been a victim of a scam.
Baldi said a male caller had convinced her he was her grandson who lives in Lake Shastina.
In a recent interview she said that on April 7 at about 10 a.m. she got a telephone call.
“Grandma, this is Scott,” the voice said. “I am in Houston, Texas and had an accident in a rental car and I need $5,000 wired to me right away.”
“I asked him if he was alright and he said he was,” said Baldi.
She said she asked her grandson what he was doing in Texas, and the caller’s answer was that a friend was getting married there and asked him to go to the wedding and sent him the airfare.
“I asked him where was his girlfriend Tammy, and he replied, ‘She is around here somewhere,’”?Baldi said.
Baldi said she was so concerned about the safety and welfare of her grandson and had no reason to believe it wasn’t him calling.
“Boy was I taken in,” she said.
The caller would not give an address or phone number. He told her to wire the money via Western Union.
“Be sure and have them give you a pin number so I can pick up the money,” the caller said.
Baldi said she drove to Mount Shasta and sent the money via the Western Union office located inside Ray’s Food Place, spending a total of $5,229.99 including fees.
“When he called back later I gave him a pin number,” said Baldi. “I asked him when he was coming home and he said, ‘I’ll let you know grandma, I am leaving in the morning and I will give you all the details when I get back.’”
That evening Baldi said she called her son, who works with her grandson at Crystal Geyser in Weed. That’s when she found out her grandson had been at work all day and realized “I had been scammed,” she said.
“The next morning I got another phone call. ‘Good morning grandma, how are you?’ a voice said.
“How do you think I am? I said gruffly. They hung up. It makes me sick,” said Baldi. “I live on Social Security, I try to be so frugal. I try to make two pennies out of one. I am so angry with myself. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
The sheriff’s office has contacted the Western Union Fraud Hotline in an attempt to find out more about the transaction. The case remains under investigation.
According to the sheriff’s office this is one of the cruelest scams as it involves trusting grandparents. The crook posing as a grandchild makes up some story for a supposed crisis such as a car accident and repairs, emergency medical treatment or even needing bail money.
The crook appeals to the victim’s emotions and tricks the victim into wiring money typically using Western Union. Usually in these cases the caller says something like, “Hi grandma, is that you?” or “Hi grandpa, it’s me, your favorite grandson.”
An AARP bulletin suggests the following to protect yourself from these phony phone calls:
• Don’t fill in the blanks. If the caller says, “It’s your granddaughter,” respond with, “Which one.” Most likely the perpetrator will then hang up.
• Verify the caller. Always confirm your grandchild’s identity by saying you will return the call at his or her home or his cell phone (but don’t ask the caller for the number). If you don’t have your grandchildren’s phone number, contact a trusted family member.
• Be mum on account numbers. Never provide your bank or credit card account numbers to any caller regardless of the reason.
• Be suspicious of requests for money wires.