Triangle residents targeted in grandparents scam

June 20, 2013 2:58:44 PM PDT
Grandparents around the Triangle are out close to $1 million thanks to a scam that targets the elderly.

It's known as the grandparents scam because the scammers know grandparents will help their grandkids when they think they are in trouble.

It starts with a phone call pleading for help.

"He said he was in jail and he had been in a serious accident, no one was hurt but he needed $1850 wired to an individual just to cover the expenses to get the vehicle repairs," Jeanie Lincoln said.

Jeanie got the call a few years ago from someone who said he was her grandson and needed help. Jeanie followed the instructions and went right to the closest Western Union and wired the money.

"He was real cautious to tell me don't say who it's for, just say it's for a family member who needed money," she said.

But once Jeanie wired that money, she got another call.

"He said, 'Grandma that wasn't enough, I need more'," Jeanie said.

Jeanie thought her grandson was in real trouble, so she wired close to $4,000 to help who she thought was her grandson. Then she got another call asking for more money. That time she told him she couldn't send anymore and that she had given everything she had.

Jeanie eventually learned this was all a scam, known as the grandparents scam. The N.C. Attorney's Office says the scam is heating up, as they have heard from more than 150 people who have lost close to $1 million in the last few years.

Investigators say con-artists are turning to Facebook and Twitter to get personal information, including family members' names and details of recent trips to make the scam more believable.

If you get a call or email asking for help, contact the family member directly to make sure the request is legitimate before sending any money. Ask the caller personal questions that only real family members would be able to answer.

Also, be careful wiring money in response to a phone call or email. Once the money is picked up, it's almost impossible to get it back.

Another tip is to take a look at your privacy settings on your social media accounts so you know who has access to your account.

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