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'Grandma Scams' Target the Elderly

Perpetrators set up elderly victims for a costly scam by appealing to their heartstrings.

The scam usually starts with a phone call from a grandchild in trouble - stranded or facing legal problems and in need of money urgently.

But very rarely are these calls ever from an actual grandson or granddaughter in dire straits.

In what has become more frequent over the years in Glendora and in surrounding communities are ‘Grandma Scams’ in which the elderly, mostly women, are the main targets.

In the most recent case, a con artist unsuccessfully tried to obtain $3,000 from an elderly Glendora couple Wednesday.

The 69-year-old woman and an 80-year-old man, who live in the 600 block of Hunters Trail, received a call about 8:30 a.m. from a man claiming to be their grandson.

The caller said he had been arrested for drunken driving in Mexico and needed $3,000 for bail, said police Lt. Joe Ward.

In listening to the man, the couple realized that he did not sound like their grandson. They hung up and reported the incident to Glendora Police.

These kinds of scams usually involve someone pretending to be a relative or a friend of a relative, Ward said. If it is a person claiming to be a friend of the grandson or son, then it is tougher to recognize a voice.

“This is a very common scam,” said Glendora Police detective Shelly Schaiterer. “It has been going on for years.”

But that hasn’t stopped scammers from targeting unsuspecting grandparents into very costly traps.

A Mira Mesa grandmother was persuaded to fork over

There are variations of the scam and sometimes the couple is told the grandson ran into trouble on a fishing trip. The con artist always tries to scare the couple into providing the information or money needed to get the grandson out of trouble.

Schaiterer said that the grandparents contacted are usually told not to tell the grandson’s mother or father about what happened – an immediate red flag.

The caller often requests that the grandparents send money via Western Union to a location out of the country. When that happens, it is nearly impossible to get the money back, Schaiterer said.

She added that the scam has worked on occasion, costing elderly victims thousands of dollars. Schaiterer asked those who are approached to send money to call other family members and the police first.

Residents should never give out personal information to strangers over the phone, she said.

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