Palo Alto, CA - On May 5, 2009, the Palo Alto Police Department issued a press release warning senior citizens of a telephone scam dubbed “favorite grandson”, where victims were duped out of thousands of dollars cash. This release is to notify citizens of two more recent victims of the same scam that have occurred in the past week.
Typically, the caller telephones an elderly citizen, addresses him /her by name and identifies him/herself as the “favorite grandson/daughter.” When the victim doesn’t immediately recognized the caller’s voice, the victim will often start to name off their younger relative, which gives the suspect a chance to discover the name of a relative and then assume that identity. Strange-sounding voices will be explained by a bad telephone connection or because the caller is suffering from a head cold.
The caller will then explain that he was visiting another city when he was arrested for a drunken driving offense or involved in a traffic collision while driving a rental vehicle. The caller will ask the victim to wire him some cash, so that he can make bail or pay for the repair to the rental vehicle before he can leave that city and return home. To avoid detection, the caller will often pretend to be embarrassed and ask the victim to avoid mentioning his “mishap” to other family members. He often will state that “his attorney” or a local police official will call the victim next to explain where the money should be sent.
The second caller, “the official,” will direct the victim to send the money via Money-Gram or Western Union. Once the money is sent, it can be collected by the con-artist with an agreed-upon password from anywhere in the world. The criminal most often uses fraudulent identification and the crime is usually not reported for several days, which makes it difficult to apprehend the scammers.
One victim lost over $4000.00 before she realized she was scammed. Another victim became suspicious and after asking some questions, the suspect hung up the phone.
Police warn all residents to be very cautious when answering any similar, unsolicited calls. Consult with a family member before sending any money, and report any suspicious calls to the police.