Kempner resident Herta Crawford, 81, received a call Monday from someone who said he was her grandson Cody, a U.S. Army soldier stationed in Germany.
The caller said he and a friend were in a car accident, and he needed $3,000 right away.
“And there was one more thing that was odd, he said, ‘I need the money, but please don’t call my mom,’” Crawford said. “I thought that was strange, but his mom was at work.”
It turns out, her 27-year-old grandson was never in a car crash. Crawford called some family members, and those family members tracked him down through Facebook to ask him to call home.
When he did, he was surprised to hear the news about the car accident.
The ploy appeared to be part of a “grandparent scam,” an effort targeted at people of grandparent age, who have grandchildren in their mid-20s.
The scam is nothing new, according to Fort Hood spokesman Chris Haug.
It began about 10 years ago, and the Fort Hood public affairs office gets nearly 15 calls a day from people saying they want to send money to a soldier, he said.
Sometimes, the scammers are using a deployed soldier’s Facebook profile to gain information, Haug said.
Other times, spouses of soldiers will get a phone call from someone who claims to be having an affair. The scam has taken on several variations over the years, but Haug said the Army’s stance has remained the same.
“Contact your local authorities and do not, do not, do not send any money,” he said in a phone call Monday.
The Western Union website has a section dedicated to informing the public about the grandparent scheme. Though the person on the other line might be creating a sense of urgency, it’s important that grandparents don’t act quickly, without verifying who is calling.
“Con artists will pull in others to impersonate attorneys, law enforcement personnel or others of authority to create the sense of urgency,” the Western Union website said. “With the availability of information on the internet, the scam is even easier to pull off. Cons can look up names, phone numbers and more and find out the right things to say to their victims. And with background noise and muffled phone lines, it can be hard to distinguish between voices.”
The person impersonating Crawford’s grandson did several of these things. He said he had a New York attorney there and put the man on the phone to supposedly explain the situation.
The grandson’s impersonator also requested that Crawford go to Best Buy in Killeen, and send $3,000 worth of gift certificates to avoid charges being pressed against him.
Crawford said the impersonator insisted the insurance company would pay her back within a week.
Crawford did not give anyone money or gift certificates.
If you find yourself the target of a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at 888-382-1222.