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February 10, 2012 > Crime Alert - Senior Scams

Crime Alert - Senior Scams

Submitted By Tim Jones, Newark PD

The Newark Police Department wants to make you aware of a scam that targets senior citizens. This fraud is referred to as the "Western Union Grandmother/Grandfather" scam. This is a fraud in which a suspect telephones a victim, claiming to be a relative. The calls are intended to lower the victim's guard using made up familiarity and frighten them into wiring money with the report of a tragedy. When a victim picks up the phone, she may hear something similar to, "Grandma! It's me! I'm in jail."

The suspect addresses the victim in familiar terms - like "Grandma" or "Uncle" - to gain the victim's confidence. The caller claims to be in some sort of peril at a distant location and in need of money immediately. 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. The money is relayed electronically to a remote account, often out of the country. The caller will often express embarrassment and ask the victim to keep the information "just between us."

The Newark Police Department is advising people to be on guard for this scam. Anyone receiving a call that they suspect may be fraud can take the following steps to safeguard themselves:

* Be wary of unsolicited calls requesting an urgent wire transfer of funds.

* When receiving a suspicious call, don't provide information and verify the caller. If the caller claims to be your son or granddaughter, ask, "Which one?"

* Ask questions that you would both know, but a stranger would not, like "What is the name of your dog?" or "Where did you go to elementary school?"

* Call back the family member who claims to be in distress. Don't ask the caller for the number; if you don't have the number; call another family member for the number.

* Scammers will often share information with each other about gullible victims. If you recognize the fraud, tell the caller you know it's a scam, and then hang up.

If you would like to start a Neighborhood Watch in your area to learn of crime trends and how to protect yourself and family from crime please contact:

Tim Jones, Newark Police Department
(510) 578-4209
tim.jones@newark.org

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