Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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May 27, 2013

On the line: Don't get caught by these phone scammers

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — "Grandma!  It's your oldest grandson and I need your help!"

That's what Gloria Lariccia heard when she picked up her phone this past week — the frantic voice of a boy who said he was her oldest grandson.

The oddest part was that she only has one grandson. And he always calls her "Nonnie." Still, there was such urgency in his tone, she had to make sure that her 16-year-old grandson was OK. So she listened to his story.

The yarn the boy spun was certainly upsetting. He was in Florida for a funeral with his friends. He drank too much and landed in jail, so he needed bail money. He begged her repeatedly not to tell his parents. He wanted to hand the phone to "his lawyer," but she refused to speak to the attorney.

Now Lariccia is a retired high school substitute teacher. In her 20 years at Niagara-Wheatfield she'd seen more than a few pranks. So pretty quickly she figured out she was being scammed.

She told the caller she would not speak to his attorney, but on the slim chance it was her grandson, she insisted he call his parents.  

That was when the caller hung up on her.

"It was very cleverly done," she said. 

Rebecca Brooks, director of the John Duke Senior Center, said that the "grandchild" scam has been around for years. A variation of it is when someone calls from a foreign country and needs help cashing a check, and asks the person to wire a portion of the proceeds. The check is always returned to the bank and the victim is charged for the amount.

"We try our best to make our seniors aware of all the scams in the area, unfortunately there are quite a few of them," Brooks said Friday.

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