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Distant relatives asking for money may be a red flag

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Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 10:00 am

Calls from distant relatives asking for money may be a new scam to watch out for.

An Ahwatukee Foothills woman, who asked not to be identified, recently received a call at home from a man claiming to be her nephew. The man said he was on a trip with a childhood friend in Canada when they were pulled over by police. He said that police found cocaine on his friend and both were arrested and needed money for bail. The local woman, believing it to really be her nephew, sent the cash.

The next day the man called back and needed more money to help pay for the rental car he said police had torn apart after his arrest. Again, the local woman sent the money.

A few days later the woman finally told her daughter what had happened. Her daughter called her cousin who was safe at home in the United States. The man who had called stopped answering his phone. He was gone and had taken all the money with him.

Lt. Matt Giordano of the Phoenix Police Department says he has heard of cases like these in the last six months to a year. The only advice he can give is to be aware.

"Be vigilant anytime you're approached unexpectedly," Giordano said. "Receiving a phone call from a long lost relative when you're not expecting one is unusual. During the conversation if they're asking you to send them some type of property or money that's, again, unusual. It warrants a little investigation. Contact other family members, verify the validity of the person's identity."

Scams of this nature are difficult for local officers to track. Before sending large amounts of money to anyone, especially someone calling from out of the country, be sure to verify the information.

For more information on common types of fraud and how to protect yourself, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has some helpful hints on its website, fbi.gov/scams-safety.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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