A 71-year-old Longmont woman last week fell victim to the “grandparent scam” in which a group of sophisticated con artists convinces a grandparent to send thousands of dollars to a far off state or country to get a grandchild out of jail.
In this case, the woman — who was not identified by police — sent $7,500 to a bail bondsman in Tennessee on Sept. 9 after talking to someone who sounded like her grandson. Two days later, the woman called police after she realized she was duped, Longmont Det. Stephen Desmond said.
The woman was originally asked to send $75,000 to get her grandson out of jail, Desmond said. “But they eventually negotiated the price to $7,500.”
The case is under investigation. The woman, like others ensnared in the grandparent scam, is embarrassed that she was conned out of her money, the detective said.
“I, in no way, blame the victim in this,” Desmond said. “These (victims) are smart people but who are being worked by professionals with lots of skill and practice. A lot of people have been taken in by this.”
Scammers often study peoples’ social media posts and take bits and pieces of information posted about people’s lives and use what they have learned to convince victims their request for help is legitimate, Desmond said.
The scammers pose as grandchildren in peril while other members of the team pose as lawyers or police to further convince the victim to send as much money as possible, he said.
Usually the voice on the other end of the telephone begs the grandparent not to tell anyone about the trouble he or she is in, Desmond said.
“They tell them ‘Please don’t tell my parents,’” he said. “They will also say ‘I know you can handle this grandma, you can get the money and as soon as I can get out of jail, I will get the money back to you. ’”
The scammers are usually based in Nigeria. The African country is impoverished and largely lawless and for some becoming part of the grandparent scheme is the only way they see out of poverty, Desmond said.
Meanwhile, many scam victims are older and are afraid that if they tell anyone about what happened, their own children may deem them unfit to live by themselves, Desmond said.
“They are afraid their kids will tell them ‘You can’t manage money, you can’t take care of yourself, we need to put you in a place where you can get help,” said Desmond, who conducts several seminars every year to warn others about these cons.
Many still fall for the traps set by the scammers even though they have been warned, he said. “One woman who has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, called me once to tell me it happened to her again,” Desmond said. “I tell them they are not stupid, they just are up against a well-practiced, well organized scheme.”