Berkeley Police Warn Residents against "Grandparent" Fraud Scheme

Officer Byron White, Berkeley Police Operations Division Area Coordinator--Area 1
Tuesday April 23, 2013 - 04:38:00 PM

Since yesterday, the Berkeley Police Department has received at least two (2) complaints from elder residents about a man telephoning them—claiming to be a police officer with a Bay Area police agency. Both incidents occurred yesterday during the daytime hours to residents of the North Berkeley Hills. 

· In one of the incidents, the man claiming to be a police officer claimed he had a female detained who said she was the resident’s daughter (BPD #13-22091). 

· In the other incident, the man stated that he had arrested a female who had the identification and financial information for the resident (the man now asking questions about the resident’s financial information) BPD 13-21878. 

According to a recent article on the FBI’s website, the “Grandparent” scam has been around for a few years. But the scam and scam artists have become more sophisticated. Thanks to the Internet and social networking sites, a criminal can sometimes uncover personal information about their targets, which makes the impersonations more believable. For example, the actual grandson may mention on his social networking site that he’s a photographer who often travels to Mexico. When contacting the grandparents, the phony grandson will say he’s calling from Mexico, where someone stole his camera equipment and passport. 


· A grandparent receives a phone call (or sometimes an e-mail) from a “grandchild.” If it is a phone call, it’s often late at night or early in the morning when most people aren’t thinking that clearly. Usually, the person claims to be traveling in a foreign country and has gotten into a bad situation, like being arrested for drugs, getting in a car accident, or being mugged…and needs money wired ASAP. And the caller doesn’t want his or her parents told. 

· Sometimes, instead of the “grandchild” making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer, a doctor at a hospital, or some other person. And we’ve also received complaints about the phony grandchild talking first and then handing the phone over to an accomplice…to further spin the fake tale. 

· We’ve also seen military families victimized: after perusing a soldier’s social networking site, a con artist will contact the soldier’s grandparents, sometimes claiming that a problem came up during military leave that requires money to address. 

· While it’s commonly called the “Grandparent” scam, criminals may also claim to be a family friend, a niece or nephew, or another family member. 


· Resist the pressure to act quickly. 

· Try to contact your grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate. 

· Never wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an e-mail...especially overseas. Wiring money is like giving cash—once you send it, you can’t get it back.