It's not likely your grandchild is in a Canadian jail

Grandparents from coast to coast are getting shaken down and being conned into believing their grandchildren are being held in a Canadian jail and need cash to make bail. As unlikely as this scam might seem, it just keeps coming back -- something that happens when people pay up.

The Attorney General's office in Idaho issued an alert warning that people in that state have been targeted. About a dozen complaints were filed before the alert was issued, the office said.

This isn't just an Idaho thing. Grandparents across the nation have reported getting this call -- with some admitting they forked over the cash.

Phonebusters, a consortium of Canadian law enforcement authorities who monitor such scams, first noticed the increase in complaints about this one in the fall. As time has passed, more and more state and local authorities have been hearing the stories of elders being taken. The problem just keeps growing.

Idaho authorities offered this sample conversation for how it plays out:

Victim: Hello.

Caller: Grandma?

Victim: Is that you, Justin?

Caller: Yeah, Grandma, it's me and I need some help. I wrecked my car in Canada and I'm in jail. I need $3,000 for bail so I can get out of jail. I called you because I don't want Mom and Dad to know I'm in trouble, so please don't tell them I called. Can you wire the money to me today, Grandma? I don't want to spend another night in jail. And you won't tell Mom and Dad, promise?

The sad thing about this is the scam actually is predicated on the grandparents not having much contact with their grandkids. After all, wouldn't they recognize their own grandchild's voice? Wouldn't they know that they were actually home in Idaho, Florida, New Jersey -- or wherever -- and not in Canada?

But, alas, crooks know human nature as well as many sociologists and psychologists. So, they keep at the scams that pay off. And based on the resurgence of this one and how widespread the warnings have been over the past few months, it's worth another warning.

Grandma and Grandpa: If you get a call purporting to be from your grandchild in a Canadian jail, do call Mom or Dad, do get the name of agency that's supposedly holding them and DO NOT send any money. The scam also involves a pretend cop or bail bondsman, so don't go for that either.

Canadian authorities offers these tips:
  • Resist the pressure to "act now." Don't panic.
  • Know with whom you are dealing. Ask for his/her name and coordinates and confirm them for yourself or request assistance from a member of your family or somebody you can trust.
  • Contact your local police to help you or to verify the legitimacy of such telephone calls.
  • Be wary of unsolicited e-mails, telephone calls, or mail attempting to extract money from you or asking you to transfer money electronically urgently.
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