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Maryland State Police warn residents of ‘grandparent scam’

Scammers are convincing some seniors that their grandchildren are in need of bail money to get out of jail.

MARYLAND, USA — Maryland State Police are investigating a slew of cases where senior citizens have been scammed into giving away thousands of dollars.

Officials are calling it the “grandparent scam” as scammers are convincing some seniors that their grandchildren are in need of bail money to get out of jail. 

So far this month, the Maryland State Police Cumberland Barrack has received two reports of this scam since Feb. 3. In these cases, the scammers stole $9,200 and $15,000, respectively, from their victims. Many cases have also been reported in other parts of Maryland and across the country in recent months. 

Police say that in each case, the suspects call a senior citizen and claim to be one of their grandchildren who have been involved in a car crash or some other legal trouble and were arrested. The person on the phone provides the victim with a phone number for an attorney and asks the victim to contact them.

The person posing as a lawyer convinces the victims that their respective grandchildren need a large sum of money – all in cash – to be bailed out of jail. Once the victims went to the bank to withdraw the funds, the suspect or a co-conspirator physically went to the victims’ homes to pick up the money.

In both Cumberland cases, the suspect pretending to be the lawyer called back and told them they needed more money to help their grandchild out of their legal troubles. Both victims realized they were being scammed before turning over any additional money.

A similar scam happened in Prince George's County. Police there said in the last three weeks, there have been three attempts to scam senior citizens and two of them were successful. 

Prince George’s County Police interviewed one woman who was scammed out of $12,500. She said there was a person on the phone pretending to be her oldest grandson.

“He said he was in an accident and he started crying. He said, I'm a good person, I don't want this to go on my record,” the grandmother said, explaining the call she received.

In a matter of minutes, scammers convinced her that her oldest grandson was being held in jail. They went as far as having her speak to who she thought was his attorney.

“He explained that there had been an accident, that my grandson had been injured slightly, he was being held in jail and the bail was $12,500,” she said.

Scared for his safety, she went to the bank and got the cash she said.

“The whole thing is that there is an urgency about it. They keep piling on what's happening,” she said.

The scammers sent a person pretending to be a bails bondsman to pick up the money.

Sgt. Andrea Sheehan with Prince George’s County Police said scammers have upped their game in the last few years.

"When they make these phone calls, they already have your information, they have your name, they have your address, they have, potentially your son or grandsons information," Sergeant Sheehan said. "The most intriguing thing is,  they even have your net worth, which basically means that they already know how much to ask for that you potentially can afford," she said. 

Officials warn that law enforcement and/or judicial personnel will never come to your house in order to collect bail money. In order to protect yourself against this scam, resist the urge to act immediately, regardless of how dramatic the story is. Work to verify the caller’s identity by asking questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer; call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine. 

Lastly, officials recommend checking the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret. Never send cash, gift cards, or money transfers, because once the scammer gets the money, it’s gone.

Anyone with information on these cases is asked to call the Maryland State Police Cumberland Barrack at 301-729-2101. Callers can remain anonymous.

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