The Wheaton Police Department has seen a recent uptick in internet/phone scams and has become aware of a new variation of the "Grandchild in Distress" Scam. Traditionally, this scam is carried out only via phone and the victim is told to send the offender money via wire transfer, Western Union, mail, or gift cards. Recently, police departments in DuPage and Cook counties are experiencing a variant in which the offender(s) come to the victim's home or assisted living facility and pose as a "Bail Bondsmen" to collect money.
Below is a description of the scam:
A grandparent receives a frantic call from someone they believe to be their grandchild or relative. The supposed relative sounds distressed and may be calling from a noisy location. The supposed relative claims to be involved in some type of trouble, such as being arrested, in a car accident, or needing emergency car repairs and asks the grandparent to immediately wire money to post bail or pay for medical treatment or car repairs. The scammer typically asks for several thousand dollars and may even call back again several hours or days later asking for more money. He or she may claim embarrassment about the alleged trouble and ask the grandparent to keep it a secret and to not alert others.
A variation of the scam may involved two scammers - the first scammer calls and poses as a grandchild under arrest. The second scammer, posing as some type of law enforcement officer, then gets on the phone with the grandparent and explains what fines need to be paid. Alternatively, the scammer may pretend to be a family friend or neighbor.
A common theme of the scam across the nation is the caller's request for the grandparent to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram or to provide bank account routing numbers. Wiring money is like sending cash; there are no protections for the sender. Typically, there is no way you can reverse the transaction, trace the money, or recover payment from the telephone scammer.
Often times, the scammers possess information that makes the ruse more credible, such as names, or cities in which the victim's relatives live. Consider having a plan in place to determine the credibility of such a call, such as asking questions only your relative would know the answer to, and report any such activity to the police department prior to sending or withdrawing any funds.
Please call 9-1-1 to report any suspicious activity of this nature. Also, please pass on this information to family, friends, and neighbors that don't receive these alerts.