The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 27, 2013

Granny falls for hoax, losing about $1,000

The Daily Item

— The “Grandparent Scam” continues to be one of the most pervasive and prevalent ruses making the rounds, and many people across the nation — and across the Valley — have fallen victim to it.

A 78-year-old woman who lives in Liberty Township, Montour County, received a phone call around 4 p.m. July 8 from someone claiming her grandson was in trouble in Cancun, Mexico, and he needed $1,000 for a lawyer, state police at Milton said.

The woman went to a local box store where she purchased then sent a MoneyGram to Cancun. Shortly afterward, the woman found out her grandson was not in Mexico and not in any sort of trouble.

MoneyGram touts its services by claiming it can “send money anywhere in minutes.” On the positive side, this can be very helpful when funds need to be sent somewhere fast. On the negative, once you have sent the MoneyGram, that money is gone in a heartbeat, and forever.

MoneyGram is aware its services have been connected to scams and, on its website, warns consumers to be very careful before sending money anywhere.

MoneyGram on its website warns viewers to be aware of the Grandparent Scam:

“Did you receive a phone call from a grandchild or a family member? Or a ‘lawyer’ or ‘police officer’ there with your family member? Are they in despair because they have been detained in Canada for not having a fishing license or for catching a protected species of fish? Have they been in a car accident? Are they asking for money to pay fines or for car repair? Did a relative call because they need money for a family member in medical need or for medicine?


“Use precaution when sending money in any of these situations. These callers can request that you send money anywhere in the world.

“If you cannot verify with your family member (calling their number you had before this call, not the “new number” the caller gives you) that they are requesting money and aren’t sure about the transaction, do not send the money. You will be at a loss for any money that is sent.”

Old scams aren’t the only ones still finding victims. Big news stories spawn new scams. Think of major storms or disasters and the rash of fraudulent “you can help” solicitations that quickly followed.

Emily Patterson, writing for Consumer News and Opinion on the The Better Business Bureau’s website, warns that the arrival of the new royal baby unleashed scammers jumping in to take advantage of people wanting to see photos of the newborn prince.

Patterson calls it a “click bait” scam.

Here’s how it works:   

“You are on Facebook, and you see that your friend likes an ’exclusive’ video of the new royal baby. The link promises candid footage that no media outlet has. Curious, you click on the link.

“You are taken to an unfamiliar, third-party website. A popup appears prompting you to ’update your video player’ before you are able to view the clip. You click ’OK.’ However when you download the file, you aren’t updating your software. You are really downloading a virus that scans your machine for banking and other personal information. This opens you up to the risk of identity theft.”

Variations of the scam are expected and similar links may be posted to Twitter, through other social media or sent by email.

“Scammers can glean your friends’ names and emails from their Facebook accounts and send messages posing as them,” Patterson said.  

She offers the following tips to protect yourself from “click bait” scams: