'Grandma Scam' swindles seniors out of thousands - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

'Grandma Scam' swindles seniors out of thousands

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Marilyn Levine got a call last November from someone claiming to be her grandson.  The man said he was in an Atlanta jail, and needed $2,500 cash to get out.

"The person said 'Hi Grandma, do you know who you're talking to?'," recalls Marilyn.  "And just for that split second, I couldn't figure out who it was."

Marilyn doesn't have any grandsons, and thankfully works for the Better Business Bureau.  It didn't take her long to figure out something was very wrong.

"It was like that commercial," Marilyn told 13abc. "Uh, I'm being scammed."

The consumer protection agency is working hard to spread the word about the 'Grandma Scam'.  Crooks specifically target the elderly.  They'll pretend to be a grandchild in trouble, and ask callers to wire varying amounts of money, usually cash.

"The crooks are smart," says NW Ohio Better Business Bureau President, Richard Eppstein. "They're slick, they've got every answer and they'll get money out of people."

The con artists will urge the victims not to tell anyone about the transaction,  including workers at money wiring services.  Western Union has wised up. If something seems suspicious, they'll hold the money before sending it or flat out refuse if the sender doesn't have proper verification of the recipient.

Many of the crooks get victim information online, sometimes picking it up on Facebook pages of grandchildren or relatives.

"If you don't keep your virus protection current on your computer and they come into your computer, they can steal your address books, they can steal your bank account numbers," warns Eppstein.

Better Business Bureau workers say it's hard to catch these crooks because they can call from virtually anywhere.   The best protection is awareness.

"This story could save thousands of dollars just by telling the people the scam and how it works," says Eppstein.

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