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Con Artists Targeting Iowans with “Grandparent Scam”

January 30, 2009

Des Moines, IA – Since the holidays, Iowa authorities have been swamped with calls from victims of the "Grandparent Scam." The victim, typically an Iowa senior, reports receiving a frantic phone call from someone claiming to be a grandchild. The caller says he or she is in trouble with the law, or has been in a car crash, or is having some type of medical emergency - and asks that money be wired to them, immediately.

In fact, it's a hoax, and the caller is a con artist. Bob Brammer, spokesman for the Iowa Attorney General's office, says the scammers are clever - they sometimes deceive their victims into mentioning names, or they might already have identifying information, taken from Web sites such as MySpace or Facebook, that makes the call sound legitimate.

"I think we have heard of something like a dozen victims in just a few weeks and we only hear from the tip of the iceberg. They almost all lose between $2,000 and $3,000."

Brammer adds the callers are so convincing that almost anyone could be tricked.

"It just may seem like an urgent thing and, if they haven't heard about this scam, they're whipped into a quick frenzy out of fear and concern for the grandchild - and they wire that money."

Unfortunately, warns Brammer, the cash can almost never be recovered after it has been wired and picked up. The best defense, he says, is to not send money and inform authorities right away if such a call is received.

Dick Layman/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - IA