SOUTHFIELD, Mich. - Due to an increase of telephone scams during the holiday season, the Southfield Police Department is offering the following tips to prevent residents from becoming victims.
Grandchild in trouble scam
One of the most common scams targeting seniors in this country is a phone call from someone claiming to be the senior's grandchild. In many cases, the person on the other end of the line knows the name of the real grandchild and the nickname the grandchild uses for the senior, such as "Grammie" or "Pop." This scam relies on emotion and exploits the grandparent's willingness to help the grandchild in any way possible.
The scam works as follows: The scammer calls the senior pretending to be the senior's grandchild. They tell the victim that they are in trouble and need money. Commonly, the scammer will claim to have been in a car accident or have been arrested and are afraid to tell their parents. The grandparent will be asked to wire the money, either by Western Union, MoneyGram or some other wiring service. The scammer then calls the grandparent back for the wiring reference number.
Unfortunately, it isn't until the senior finally speaks with the actual grandchild that they learn that they were scammed. By then, the scammer is long gone and nearly impossible to track down. The situation is even more difficult when the money is wired to an out-of-state location.
What should you do if you receive a phone call from your "grandchild" asking for emergency money?
- DO NOT wire the money.
DO NOT provide the caller with any information.
DO NOT keep the call a secret—this is an attempt by the scammer to keep the senior isolated and keep the scam from failing.
DO call your grandchild, or other family member, immediately to find out what is really going on.
DO call your local police department to report the scam.
Scammers will sometimes call pretending to raise money for homeless pets, children or another sympathetic sounding cause. However, the catch is the charity does not exist and you donation will go directly to the scammer or even worse, the scammer might use your donation to steal your identity. As a rule of thumb, do not make donations over the phone—particularly if they called you.
If you are tempted to donate, check them out on the Better Business Bureau before sending any money.
This newer scam utilizes cell phones. The scammer will send you a text message purporting to be from your bank, credit card company or other legitimate source claiming they need some information.
DO NOT respond to these text messages—your bank, the IRS or your credit card company will not request personal information via text message. If you are unsure, do not respond to the text message, but call the company directly via a phone number you know to be correct and inquire if they have been attempting to contact you.
DO NOT call them back at a phone number sent in the text message.
Prize distribution centers
Another phone scam involves calls from "Prize Distribution Centers" that claim that you are the winner in sweepstakes or a lottery. Of course, you are not the only "winner" in the lottery and tens of thousands of people will receive the same call. The goal of the scheme is to entice you to make a relatively small payment (for example, shipping and handling fee, a sales tax) promising that a much bigger prize will be sent your way. Once the payment is sent, you will most likely not hear from the company again.
What to do
The best way to protect yourself from becoming a victim of a telephone scam is to register in the Do Not Call list: https://www.donotcall.gov/.
Make sure to include your cell phones, as those are the newest targets. This is now a permanent listing and you no longer have to renew. If you are solicited after registering, you can report the violators.
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