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Phone scam claims Ridgewood woman who wired $9,000 to ‘grandson’ in jail

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

SCAM ALERT: Ridgewood police have joined the chorus of local departments urging citizens to beware of a growing phone scam, after a 73-year-old village woman was conned out of $9,000 by a caller who said he was her grandson and an accomplice who claimed to be his lawyer.

The “grandson” told the woman he was in an Ohio jail and needed bail money.

He put the lawyer on the phone, and he convinced the woman to send four separate wire transfers out of state.

She’ll likely never see that money again.

Just two weeks ago, a Wyckoff couple in their 70′s lost $15,000 after being tricked into believing their son had been in car crash in New York City and needed bail money.

A week or so before that, Bogota residents reported receiving similar calls — only the caller claimed to have had a car accident with the victim in or around New York City.

Because the victim couldn’t afford to pay for the damage, the caller said, he’s “holding the person captive, with weapons, until the family member can go to the bank, withdraw money and head to the nearest Western Union,” Bogota Police Chief John C. Burke said.

The amounts ordinarily are in the low thousands, and the purported kidnapper demands that the cash be wired to Puerto Rico or somewhere else outside the U.S, the chief told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

“They’ll usually say that the victim was on the way to work,” Burke said. “Most of them actually do work, so the family members aren’t about to contact them immediately to confirm or deny what happened.”

Police in Oradell saw a new twist today, when an 80-year-old woman told them she was called by an Atlanta company that offered her an 80 percent Medicare discount — if she only provided the routing number on her checks.

After hanging up, the woman realized what she’d done and called police. The bank was notified before any of her money was touched.

The FBI has joined local police in investigating the various cons, through which calls are made from other states.

“Be very suspicious of calls like this,” Ridgewood Detective Chris McDowell emphasized. “Make contact with the person that was supposed to be in danger or jail. They probable are not in any trouble.

“We also recommend being suspicious of any request for a wire transfer of money for this type of incident or any other reason unless you are absolutely sure who is receiving the proceeds of the transfer,” McDowell said.

Despite warnings about the scammers’ methods — including two on CLIFFVIEW PILOT in less than a month — “they always seem to find another victim,” Wyckoff Police Chief Benjamin Fox said. “They’re good at what they do. They are often professional con artists. They have the ability to pull you in and get you to believe what they are saying.”

You can prevent yourself or someone you love from becoming a victim. Take note:

Seniors are the usual targets.

The lies the scammer tell vary, but they always involve a family member who needs help.

The con artists play on emotion, stressing urgency, without giving the victim much time to think.

They then ask the victims to wire the money, usually via Western Union.

“Never, never, never, ever wire money someplace when you get an unsolicited phone call from someone, no matter what the story is,” Fox said. “There is rarely anything that is so urgent that you can’t take the time to look into it further.”

Fox, Burke and their colleagues in law enforcement all agree: The best response is to call your local police department first. Also check with other family members.

Meanwhile, let those you know and love know that these scams happen — a lot — and that, as Fox says, “the person on the other end of the phone is good at what they are doing to you.”

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