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Grandparents lose $33,000, urge caution of new scam

Grandparents lose $33,000, urge caution of new scam
by Susan K. Treutler | The Muskegon Chronicle
Sunday November 23, 2008, 6:57 AM
GRAND HAVEN — It started with a phone call from someone they thought was their teenage grandson.

As the story went, he was in Canada with friends. He’d been caught fishing without a license. He needed $3,000 to pay the fine. And, by the way, he said: Please don’t let his parents know he was in trouble.

What followed was a series of phone calls — up to five or six a day over a six-day period — from “police,” describing their “grandson’s” escalating troubles.

Before it was over, the elderly couple had wired $33,000 of their life savings to Canada, money they don’t expect to ever see again.

The Grand Haven couple, who did not want to be identified, had fallen victim to a con so common it has a name: “the grandparent scam.”

Like many others who’ve been duped, they were victimized by their love of their grandchildren, their trusting nature, and their lack of knowledge about such scams.

“We had never heard of this. We want people to know this is going on,” the grandmother said. “They can’t do these things to people who are in their 80s.”

The Internet is full of warnings about the scam. State attorneys general, organizations like the Better Business Bureau, newspapers and TV stations from coast to coast have all warned to be wary of calls of distress from grandchildren.

Yet many people apparently are still falling victim.

In the Grand Haven couple’s case, the teen’s fictional troubles started with a fishing violation, which led to the alleged discovery of drugs in the teenagers’ boat. According to the phone calls, the grandson was then jailed and needed bail money.

The scam finally unraveled when felt so bad about leaving the boy’s parents in the dark, they urged him to come clean.

They called their grandson’s cell phone and left a message. They told him to call his parents and tell them everything.

The grandson, a high school senior in Florida, subsequently heard the message and told his family that something was wrong with his grandmother and grandfather. He said they’d left a weird message on his phone that made no sense to him.

The Grand Haven couple have since been in contact with the FBI and the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department, but there appears to be little anyone can do.

The grandmother said she has heard that scammers get names of potential victims from places like family tree sites on the Internet.

The people on the phone were concerned, helpful and convincing, she said. One of the scammers effectively impersonated her grandson. On another occasion, they said they were agents of the Internal Revenue Service.

The grandparents had questioned why their grandson would be in Canada in the middle of the week when he should have been in school in Florida, but surmised that he may have needed to get away. A good friend had just been killed in a motorcycle accident, and he had been a pallbearer at the funeral.

The couple have spoken to church groups in person, and to friends and acquaintances about the scam, but want their story to be told far and wide, so that others can be aware.

Ottawa County Sheriff’s Sgt. Valerie Weiss said the department can’t comment on the case because it’s under investigation. She said the department gets many such reports every week.

“There are hundreds of these scams,” she said.

The Grand Haven couple lost more than money. They lost their faith in the inherent goodness of people.

“We don’t trust anybody,” the grandmother said.


November 25, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Bi-sexual predator on as

    Comment by Steve | January 10, 2009 | Reply

    • Is this guy a bisexual predator? What happened?

      Comment by Mona | March 28, 2010 | Reply

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