LANSING | Lansing police said they are seeing a resurgence of a scam targeting elderly residents with teenage grandchildren calling them for help, according to a news release.
A stranger claiming to be an authority from a foreign country, usually Canada or Mexico, will ask for the grandparent by name and tell them they have their grandchild either in a hospital or in custody for a criminal offense. The caller will identify the grandchild by name, the release states.
The grandparent is told they must wire money, usually more than $1,000, to that specific country to obtain the release of the grandchild.
If the elderly person questions the legitimacy of the phone call, another person will get on the phone pretending to be the grandchild, crying and pleading for help, begging the grandparent not to contact their parents.
Some grandparents who received such calls told police they really believed the person pleading on the phone was their grandchild.
The grandparent is given specific instructions as to how much money to wire and where it should be sent. The caller will call back to get the reference number for the wire and often demand more money be sent.
Once the money is sent by wire, it is impossible to retrieve it, since it is treated as cash, police said. It is also very difficult to determine who received the wire transfer.
Police recommend taking the following steps before wiring any money:
• Verify the location of the person in trouble.
• Do not keep it a secret.
• Obtain a name and telephone number of the "official" demanding the money.
• Ask very personal questions of the caller that only they would know the answer to.
• Do not provide any personal information.
• Notify police about the call.
You can minimize such calls by registering your home and mobile numbers to the national Do Not Call List (https://www.donotcall.gov/) and limit the amount of personal information posted on social media sites open to the public.
Police say to be wary of anyone calling and requesting personal information or money that you did not contact first.