Actions

Scammers try extorting money from seniors, falsely claiming their grandchild's been arrested

Phone scam threatens citizens with arrest
Posted at 1:10 PM, Nov 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-20 13:37:22-05

BALTIMORE — As the holiday season rolls around, so do scammers.

Police in Maryland are warning of a recent one that targets senior citizens.

The scam falsely claims their grandchild was arrested and demands thousands of dollars to meet their bail.

This is what the phone message says.

"This is an urgent message about your grandchild. I'm their lawyer. They've been involved in an accident and arrested for reckless driving. They need $10,000 to pay their bail so that they don't have to stay in jail for six months."

Police warn some scammers may actually use the name of your relative, to make their claims seem legitimate.

But don't fall for it, most of this information is public and can easily be found online.

In some cases the suspects tell their victim not to talk to anyone else about the call, citing a phony gag order.

Just this week alone, there have been three such incidents in Baltimore County.

The latest case was reported Thursday morning in Towson. Two others happened this past Monday and Tuesday in Catonsville and Timonium respectively.

In all three Baltimore County incidents, a fake "courier" has actually organized a time to come to the victims homes and physically pick up the money.

"We all have a responsibility to our relatives and friends to spread the word on telephone scams and educate those around us to the ruses used by these scammers," said Baltimore County Police in a statement. "Don't fall victim to these financial crimes, and don't allow those you care about to be victimized - protect them by educating them," said Baltimore County Police.

Residents in Anne Arundel and Frederick Counties have also reported being contacted.

Earlier this year, WMAR-2 News reported on a similar incident in Queen Anne's County. The scammer in this particular case actually impersonated the victim's grandson over the phone.

READ MORE: Queen Anne's Co. grandmother scammed out of thousands by someone impersonating grandson

"The best chance detectives have at stopping these criminals from victimizing anyone else is with information."

Police are asking anyone who feels they may have been a victim to call and make a report.

Meanwhile, there are other types of scams going on these days.

A lot of them involve utility bills.

One is a robo-call where customers are asked to “press 1” to hear about their bill and make a payment.

Once the number 1 is pressed, a live person gets on the line and demands immediate payment or personal information.

Others claim, “Your meter needs to be switched out immediately or your power will be turned off,” which is followed by a demand for immediate payment using Cashapp, Bitcoin, Zelle or Green Dot.

Some calls even end with the scammers texting a bar-code to the customer for immediate payment.

SEE ALSO: Marylanders lost $70,000 to utility scams in October

“Scam artists are using the threat of electric or gas service termination to trick customers into giving them money over the phone,” said Jason Stanek, Chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission. “The Commission and BGE are warning customers not to fall for this trap. Utility customers should never provide any credit card number or bank account information over the phone. If you have questions about your account, contact your utility directly with information found on your bill or on the utility’s website.”

Here are some tips from BGE to help you avoid scams and determine what's real and fake.

1. BGE will never come to a customer’s home or business to:

· Demand a payment.

· Ask for immediate payment with a prepaid cash card.

· Ask for their BGE account number or other personal information, such as a driver’s license number.

2. BGE will never call a customer to:

· Ask for their account number.

· Ask for personal information such as their Social Security number or bank information.

· Ask them to make a direct payment with a prepaid cash card.

3. To identify an actual BGE employee, remember:

· All BGE field employees wear clothing with the BGE logo, including shirt and safety vest.

· BGE employees and contractors visibly display a company ID badge with the BGE logo, employee’s name, and photo.