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Sounding the alarms before you answer that cry for help

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Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2013 3:49 pm

It’s a call from a relative. It may be a grandson or a cousin. But this is one call you don’t want.

It’s a scam. It’s not new, but right now it’s hitting the Valley hard.

Already this month, people from Sun City to Mesa have emailed and said they’ve received calls from supposed relatives.

He or she had an “emergency” of some kind. It usually involved an accident or trouble in another country where they were vacationing.

One Valley woman got a call from her “supposed” grandson. He said he was in London, wrecked his car, and needed money wired to him quickly. She sent a total of $11,000. It was not her grandson.

I wish I could tell you how these low lifes get your phone number. It seems they target published numbers in areas with more seniors, or in wealthier areas.

There are a couple of new twists.

Scammers are now also emailing, and in some cases, the scammer poses as a co-worker.

Looking back, victims tell me they missed warning signs. One question has been how the scammer knows the relative’s name. Well, I learned that in some cases, the victims give that away.

One victim’s account: “I said, ‘Is this Tommy?’ He said, ‘Yeah.” Another’s: “I said, ‘Well, who is this? And he said, ‘Well, it’s your grandson.’ And I said, ‘Oh Byran, how are you?”

One emailer says she almost fell for it. But after checking with her family, she found the relative was not in any trouble.

Folks, that’s exactly what all of us should be doing. A simple call to a family member could save you a lot of money. And remember, if you’re asked to wire money, it’s nearly always a scam.

So warn family members, and consider coming up with a word or phrase to be repeated if there is an emergency. That way, you’ll know if your relative really is in trouble.

• ABC15 Investigator Joe Ducey is Arizona’s consumer alert expert. Watch his reports weekdays on ABC15 at 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., and email him with questions or news tips anytime at jducey@abc15.com.

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