It's easy to fall for a 'Granny Scam'
It's called a "Granny Scam."
That's where a grandmother receives a phone call of distress from someone who pretends to be her grandchild.
While the details of the call might differ, the end result is the same: Granny is asked to send money SAP to help her grandchild get out of a jam.
When I read those stories - and there have been many of them in newspapers and online my first thought is: Who could be dumb enough to fall for scams like that?
Well the haughty can get humbled in a hurry.
With one phone call, I learned how easy it is to get taken in by these schemes.
When I was in the process of concentrating on writing a story, the telephone interrupted my thoughts.
"This is Grayson," the caller said.
Believing it was my grandson, I babbled about my recent visit to the Holy Land, telling him I said special prayers for him at every sacred site we visited.
He sounded a bit embarrassed at that and changed the subject in a hurry. I thought that was definitely something my 18 year old grandson would do.
When I asked why he was calling, Grayson said he was attending a wedding in the Dominican Republic with his friend Jeffrey.
He went through great detail telling me Jeffrey's mother was being married there and he refused to go unless Grayson could come, too.
"Jeff's mother paid for our airfare," Grayson said in answer to my first question.
Alarm bells were going off in my mind because I couldn't picture my daughter Andrea allowing Grayson to do that. And if she had, surely she would have told me. But I kept my doubts in the back of my mind and kept firing questions at Grayson. He was ready with every answer.
At the wedding reception, everyone had too much to drink but Grayson was in the best shape to drive, he said.
That sounded like Grayson. He really isn't much of a drinker and often leaves parties when there's too much drinking.
In great detail, Grayson went on to tell me about the woman driving the car in front of him. She was driving erratically, he said, and he was about to pass her.
Instead, she stopped her car, for some reason, in the middle of the road and Grayson hit her car. It was enough of a collision for the air bag to go off and Grayson got a broken nose, he said.
"The cop said the accident was my fault because I hit her car from behind. He made me get out of the car and try to walk a straight line. I passed that test but I failed the Breathalyzer so I ended up in jail," Grayson said.
At the end of his long tale, he said Jeffrey's uncle who was there for the wedding is a lawyer. "He negotiated a deal where I would not have a record for drunken driving if I made restitution. Jeff's mother paid half but I still have to come up with $1,600," Grayson said.
I asked a lot of questions, including why Grayson called me instead of his parents. "Your parents are smart and supportive. You should be calling them," I said.
Grayson insisted he didn't want to tell his parents and worry them until he was safely home that night.
"Can you help me out of a jam by sending me the money?" Grayson asked.
I told him I would never go behind his parent's backs. I was going to call them.
By then, all the red flags were waving and I had a big question of my own.
"Your mom told me you are spending a lot of time at the coffee shop. What's the name of the coffee shop?" I asked.
At that point, "Grayson" hung up.
This fish didn't fall for the line. But I almost did.
I'm left with the question of how someone knew I had a grandson named Grayson. It's an unusual name.
Experts say scam artists mine social networks like Facebook looking for personal information. A survey this week concluded that 78 percent of scam artists use social media sites to gain information for their scams.
I know this, which is one of the big reasons I refuse to go on Facebook. But somehow, some scam artist knew I had a grandson Grayson.
If I didn't talk to his mother so often and know a great deal about Grayson's friends and their activities, I might have believed the phone call - at least for a while.
But one thing I would never, never do is wire money out of the country.
"If you're asked to wire money right away, especially out of the country, that's one tip-off that you are being scammed," stressed one fraud prevention expert.
She says more people than you would believe fall for the Granny scams. Many don't report it to police, she said, because they are embarrassed.
Ask before you act, experts say.
Ask for information only your grandchild would know.
Ask their parents to verify the call.
How easy is it to be scammed?
Easier that you think.