PORTLAND, Maine — CBS 13 is warning about a scam targeting grandparents. As many families are spending this holiday weekend together, some grandparents are getting phone calls saying their grandchildren are in trouble and need help.
The Maine Attorney General’s Office says this is an increasingly common scam involving a call from someone claiming to be your grandchild. The FBI says it first started calls about this one back in 2008, but the scam has become more sophisticated because of social media.
Genevieve DeStefano was panicked when the person claiming to be her grandson told her he had been in an accident and hit another car. She did what many grandparents would do and offered to help.
A second person on the phone claimed he was an attorney who needed a payment to keep her grandson out of jail.
The usual fee was $9,000 in iTunes cards. DeStefano immediately went to a store to buy them.
“I was so scared because he had me so scared you know that you’ll just ruin it all, and he will have to stay in jail,” DeStefano said.
Some may have found the request for iTunes cards suspicious, but she had no idea what the cards even were. Investigators say suspects always use a sense of urgency in these cases.
“Time was of the essence in her mind. She didn’t know if he was injured. They are claiming he has a broken nose, and she’s unsure if he is receiving medical attention,” U.S. Postal Inspector Angie Lane said.
“I cannot believe that I fell for this,” DeStefano said.
In this case, her family happened to stop by her house and she quickly realized her grandson was at work — not in jail.
So how did the scam artists know her grandson’s name? Social media may be to blame, according to investigators.
In this case, DeStefano’s family called the police, their bank and iTunes and were able to get all the money back.
To fight back, the FBI suggests you resist the pressure to act quickly, try to contact your grandchild or another family member to know if the call is legitimate, and never send any money or gift cards based on a request made by a stranger over the phone or in an email.