Voice of the consumer: Hang up on the grandparent scam

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - 11 News lead Call For Action investigator Katie Pelton pens a weekly column for our news partner The Gazette. Previous columns can be found here.

I want to send out another reminder about one of the most infuriating scams that I hear about: the grandparent scam.

A grandmother reached out to me after she lost thousands of dollars thinking she was helping her grandson in need.

“The voice said that my grandson had been to a wedding and after the reception he had had too much to drink and had gotten a DUI and got into a car collision,” the grandmother told me over the phone. She doesn’t want me to use her name. “They could bail him out right away. The price would be $30,000, but they could get it lowered to $13,000 but they have to have it right away in cash.”

“They said, ‘Would you like to speak to him?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ The voice came on and it was crying. It sounded like my grandson, it really did,” she said. “He said, ‘Grandma, you can’t tell anybody, but please help get me out of here. I said, ‘I’ll try.’ He said, ‘My nose is broken.’ I thought, ‘Well that’s why he doesn’t quite sound like himself.’”

The caller told her to send cash overnight in four envelopes. She followed the orders, worried that her grandson was in deep trouble, but things didn’t stop there.

“He called back and said, ‘Well we got the money but the other driver, she lost her baby, so now he’s going to be charged with a felony so we’ll have to have the full $30,000,” the grandmother added. “I said, ‘Well I don’t have that kind of money.’”

That’s when the woman tells me she called her daughter. “She said, ‘Mom that’s a scam, let me see if I can get [your grandson] on the phone.’ Immediately she got him and he said, ‘Grandma I’m fine. Nothing happened to me.’”

“He said, ‘Oh grandma, I’m so sorry. I feel so bad that happened to you.’ I said, ‘It’s not your fault.’”

She reported the scam to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and when I called to get more information, I found out one employee was all too familiar with this scheme.

“Several years ago before my dad passed away, he received a call that his grandson was in trouble and was arrested and he needed to give this individual who was calling money, to bond him out of jail,” said Jacqueline Kirby, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman. “My dad called me, he was concerned, said that one of his grandsons had been arrested. I checked in our jail management system to see if indeed he was incarcerated, he was not there. So I ended up calling him and said, ‘Hey, are you okay? Are you in trouble? Grandpa got this call.’ He was just fine, in bed and had just woke up.”

Kirby has a very important message to share with everyone you know and love.

“I can’t stress enough, if somebody is calling you claiming to be law enforcement, and they need money to bond your family member or friend out, hang up. It is a scam. I guarantee you it is a scam,” said Kirby. “Now if somebody is concerned maybe this is legitimate, then you call somebody at the El Paso County jail, the Criminal Justice Center, who can answer your questions. Don’t take somebody’s word for it who’s cold-calling you.”

You can reach the sheriff’s office at 719-390-5555.

“They’re preying on these individual’s love for their family, for their grandchildren, and also their lack of experience with technology to check the right avenues to see if their loved one is incarcerated and needs help,” said Kirby. “Scammers will do what continues to work. So it’s very important for people when they get this call to stop. It’s scary, but a law enforcement agency will never call saying your loved one has been incarcerated, send us money and he can get out, they can get out. There’s a specific process that has to be followed to bond somebody out of jail.”

I suggest having a code word that everyone in your family knows. If the caller doesn’t know the code word, that’s even more confirmation that it’s a scam. You may want to clip this article from the paper and hang it on your parents’ fridge so they know what to do if they get a call like this, and together we can fight back against the scammers.

If you’re wondering if you’re dealing with a scam, give our Call for Action team a call at 719-457-8211.

Click here to read the original column on gazette.com.