Mar 18, 2014 6:32 PM by Kari Beal
It's known as the "Grandparent Scam", and it is here in Acadiana. The target is senior citizens. A MetLife study of Elderly Financial Abuse estimates these types of scams are a $3 billion dollar industry.
In the "Grandparent Scam" the callers explain there is some type of emergency situation involving that person's grandchild. Next they ask for money. Every year they use new tactics, and now they are even gaining personal information to help convince grandparents.
"I just said hello, and he said grandma this is your grandchild," Grandmother Ella Mae Bott said.
Bott made the first mistake of saying "Austin?" The impersonator, acting as her grandson said, "Yes, Austin." Then he proceeds to ask a personal question concerning her health.
"He said, how are you feeling since the operation?" Bott said.
At this point Ella Bott believes she is really talking to Austin and hands the phone to her husband.
"He says I have a problem. I need $1500. I was an in automobile accident," Austin's grandfather James Bott said.
The person posing as Austin explained he took a secret trip to Chile and doesn't want his father to know about it. The caller then puts another scammer on the phone. This person claims to be a lawyer.
"He said he was an embassy lawyer named Franklin Fletcher," Austin's uncle Rodney James Dore said.
Convinced, the family wired the $1500; the maximum amount an individual can send in a single transaction through the Western Federal Credit Union. But these scammers didn't stop there. They used some information again that a family member had shared on the phone.
"I told Austin to bring me back a t-shirt from Chile, so I would have something," said Dore.
The scammers called back and said they needed more money because Austin had missed his flight back home trying to get a t-shirt. Now the Bott's finally called Austin's parents and found out the truth; this whole ordeal was a scam.
Sharane Gott of the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana said the "Grandparent Scam" has been around since 2008, and the best way to avoid it is to stay connected with family.
"Always stay in touch with your family and check on them first before you send money," Gott said.
The BBB warns that any frantic call that asks for money should be a red flag.
"It's not usually by credit card. It's Western Credit Union or some other wire service that isn't as traceable," Gott said.
Another piece of advice is to get caller ID and to ask personal questions that only the family's grandchild could answer.
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