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Posted on Sat. Feb. 01, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

'Grandparent' scam nearly costs Fort Wayne woman $1,600

BBB, Moneygram offer tips to avoid these con games

MORE INFORMATION
Be less vulnerable

*Know who you're talking to. If you don't actually know the person who's asking for money, be very skeptical.

*Call. Always call the person who allegedly in trouble.

*Communicate: Teens should share travel plans with family members before leaving the state or country.

*Share information: Teens should provide the cell phone number and email address of a friend they are traveling with in the case of an emergency. Family members should remind students to be cautious when sharing details about travel plans on social media.

*Know the red flags. Typically, the grandparent receives a frantic phone call from a scammer posing as their grandchild. The “grandchild” explains that he or she has gotten into trouble and needs help, perhaps caused a car accident or was arrested for drug possession. The "grandchild" pleads to the grandparents not to tell his or her parents and asks that they wire thousands of dollars for reasons posting bail, repairing the car, covering lawyer's fees or even paying hospital bills for a person the grandchild injured in a car accident.

*Ask a personal question, but don't disclose too much information. If a grandparent receives a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild in distress, BBB advises that the grandparent not disclose any information before confirming that it really is their grandchild. If a caller says "It's me, Grandma!" don't respond with a name, but instead let the caller explain who he or she is. One easy way to confirm their identity is to ask a simple question that the grandchild would know such as what school he or she goes to or their middle name.

Source: BBB

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A Fort Wayne grandmother nearly lost $1,600 to a scammer but was saved by an investigation launched by the company that was to handle the transfer of the money.

The grandmother, who asked that she not be identified in this story, is not alone. Officials at the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana and at Moneygram, which spotted the con game that nearly snared the local grandmother, hear about plenty of these “grandparent” scams.

These grandparent scams use many different storylines to prey on the affection of grandparents in purported crises, according to the BBB. In the case of the Fort Wayne grandmother, she got a call from a woman who identified herself as a granddaughter.

The grandmother reported that the young woman said she and some friends went out for a ride with young men, then were stopped by police. The police searched the car, the “granddaughter” said, found drugs in the car and arrested everyone in the car.

The point: The imposter granddaughter needed $1,600 to post bond and get out of jail. Grandma needed to send that money to a third party in Maryland, she was told.

The grandmother went to a Wal-Mart, where she set out to transfer money through Moneygram, a Texas-based company that facilitates online transfers of money. Soon she received a call from a Moneygram employee, who said the company suspected that she might be the victim of fraud. The company said it would hold the payment while it investigated.

The company debunked the claim that it was her granddaughter, called her and returned her $1,600.

“We got the money back Wednesday,” the grandmother said.

The grandmother's refund isn't an isolated episode, said Kim Garner, senior vice president for global security and investigations at Moneygram. She said that Moneygram processes more than $1billion a day in money transfers and routinely blocks and refunds more than $10 million a month in transfers.

"Our service is primarily for family members," Garner said. That's where fraud detection begins. Moneygram looks for certain hints that a transfer might be fraudulent, she said, such as:

*Does the recipient have a different last name than the sender?

*Is it the first time a sender has used Moneygram?

*Is the dollar amount being transferred a figure that has started showing up in fraud episodes?

The "grandparent" is always popular, Garner said, but there are many seasonal variations, too. With Valentine's Day coming in a couple of weeks, "romance" scams -- such as an online friend wanting money to come and visit -- are likely to proliferate.

bcaylor@news-sentinel.com


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