The Grandparent Scam

A Crossville man is out nearly $5,000 after falling victim to a scam.

Known as the "grandparent scam," the scheme targets elderly people.

The scammers calls an elderly person and pretends to be a grandchild in need of money.

The con has been repeated all over the country, but this week there have been two reports of it occurring in Cumberland County.

One of the victims, a 75-year-old man, has requested his identity is kept hidden.

"[The caller] started to get a little bit frantic and he said, ‘Grandpa, I don't know what I'm going to do,'" the victim said about the phone call he received earlier this month.

The call came from someone claiming to be the man's grandson, saying he had been arrested in Mexico City.

"He said, 'I don't want my mother to know because she'll really go hyper, and she is the type of lady that would.' He said, 'I don't want her to know when I get home,'" the victim said.

The worried grandfather immediately went to Rite Aid Pharmacy to wire "his grandson" the requested $1,515 through Western Union. 

"It sounded so much like him," the victim said, ashamed of falling victim to such a common scam.

Crossville Police Department Major Mark Rosser says the grandparent scam is no common in Crossville.

"[The con artists] know sometimes grandparents might have a little money stuck away and that may be all they have in the world, but they figure they're a soft target," Rosser explained.

In addition to $1,500 the scammer requested for phony court fees, the victim wired another $1,640 to make a requested charitable donation, then another $1,400 for attorney fees.

The victim says he didn't question any of the requests for money. He was just trying to help.

"I didn't know, not until I got ahold of my grandson. I left him a message and he called back and he said, 'Grandpa, I've never been down to Mexico City,' and it wasn't until then that it hit me," he explained.

Major Rosser says it is near impossible to recover that money.

"It's pretty well gone," Rosser said. "Unless we are right there at the other end when they're picking it up, chances of us making a case on this are pretty slim."

Officials say the best thing they can do is educate the public.

If you receive a similar call, the first thing to do is to call family members and find out where exactly that grandchild is.

Second, check the number. In this case the scammer said he was calling from Mexico, but the call came from a Canadian area code.

Finally when in doubt check with the U.S. State Department's Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747.

The agency can help verify whether a situation is a legitimate or a scam.