Scammers target grandparents
Published: Monday, February 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 01:02
Scammers are targeting Newark-area grandparents with a fraud designed to siphon their money into international bank accounts, according to police.
The thieves use a tactic called a "grandparent scam," which involves the scammer calling an elderly person and pretending to be their grandchild. The caller, who often gathers information about the grandchild, attempts to convince the grandparent they are in trouble and asks them to wire money into an account.
Newark police spokesman MCpl. Gerald Bryda said the scammers obtain information from people-finder websites, such as People Finders or US Search, which compile a list of public documents, such as criminal and court records. The sites then filter the documents and create a database about a person, which often includes the names of their relatives.
The websites include information such as listed phone numbers, addresses and names of people who may be related, which police believe is how scammers obtain the information.
"Someone can just look up your name and it will tell us all about you," Bryda said.
Bryda said police have traced the phone numbers to Canada, where investigators also believe they are based, and the money is being deposited into international bank accounts. He said international jurisdiction and location will make it difficult to apprehend the scammers.
Newark police attempted to warn residents who might fall victim to the scam on Jan. 27 through a press release on their website and InformMe, a citizen notification service that emails or texts subscribers with alerts from city officials.
"The important thing is we're getting the word out about it with the alert system," Bryda said.
While Ogletown resident Ted Antonelli said he has grandchildren, he doesn't believe he would fall victim to the scam because he believes he'd be able to tell if it was any of his actual grandchildren calling for help.
"I'm too old and wise for that," Antonelli said.
Newark resident Bill Jackson said he hadn't heard about the scam, but couldn't see how it would be an appealing tactic for criminals.
"I never really knew it was around, it seems like a good idea though," Jackson said.