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'Grandson' Scam Targets Women, O.C. Sheriff Warns

June 08, 2004|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

Con artists have bilked several women out of as much as $800 each by posing as a grandson, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department, which issued a public warning about the scam Monday.

The con artists, said sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino, telephone a target and in a chipper voice say, "Hello, Grandma, this is your grandson."

According to Amormino, many victims respond by providing the name of the grandson: "Oh, is this you, Timmy?" The stranger says he's in trouble because of a car accident but uninjured, Amormino said. The caller then requests hundreds of dollars he needs for bail money.

"So far, the [usual] sum being requested is $480," Amormino said. "They try to keep the sum lower than $1,000 because Western Union does not require identification for sums under $1,000."

About 20 elderly residents have been scammed, he said, half of them from the retirement community of Leisure World in Laguna Woods. Others may have been victimized, Amormino said.

Sheriff's deputies are experiencing delays with victims' reporting the crimes. Victims often wait weeks to call the family and ask about the grandson's car accident. "Then they find out they've been duped," Amormino said.

Authorities believe the suspects have telephone directories for specific retirement areas and are selecting names of single women. If the person does not have a grandson, the caller selects another name, Amormino said.

Officials say seniors should verify the recipient's name before any money is sent.

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