Two Kenilworth seniors were victimized phone scams between Feb. 2 and 4, wiring more than $10,000 to help people they believed were their friends or family members.
The issued a warning about the “Grandparents Scam,” a common scheme detailed on Western Union’s Consumer Protection guide. Callers target seniors, often impersonating their grandchild and asking the senior to wire thousands of dollars to help deal with an emergency like an arrest or accident.
“They want to help their family member; they’re going to do whatever they can to help them out,” said Sgt. David Miller. “When you start pulling at the heartstrings, they’re very vulnerable. People should make sure their elderly relatives are aware of this scam.”
One resident lost $2,350 wiring money to someone they believed to be a friend. Another sent a total of $8,900 to a supposed relative through two transactions. Kenilworth Police said if the scammers are successful the first time, they will often call the victim back to ask for more money. Miller said this was the case in both incidents.
“These probably were linked in some way because of the close proximity in time,” Miller said. “It’s just under investigation how they’re connected.”
Miller said he did not know how the criminals learned the names of the friends and relatives they impersonated, but he compared the crime to identity theft.
“They’re going to search any avenue they can to find information about someone, and once they have that, through public records, obituaries or picking through garbage, they’ll use it to their advantage.”
These crimes typically cross international borders, making persecution and recovery of funds unlikely, a press release from Kenilworth Police said. Anyone who receives a similar phone call is advised to ask for a callback number and check with other family members, friends or the police to verify the facts before sending any money.
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