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MSP warns about phone scam in area

Grandparents, beware.

That frantic phone call supposedly from a beloved grandchild likely isn’t anyone even remotely related to you, according to the Michigan State Police Calumet Post.

The post issued the warning after several residents in the region reported getting calls claiming to be a grandchild or other relative in jail, desperately needing bail money.

It’s a common scam, designed to take advantage of a grandparent’s natural inclination to help a grandchild. Other variations include the grandchild is in the hospital, according to AARP.

Often the caller claims a third person, such as a lawyer or doctor, will explain the situation if you call another number; a second person may even be put on the line to insist it’s a legitimate request.

The common theme is the person wants money sent or wired, with the added plea of “please don’t tell mom and dad,” according to AARP.

In 2017, nearly 1 in 5 people reported losing money in an impostor scheme like the grandparent scam, amounting to a loss of $328 million, according to the AARP, citing the Federal Trade Commission. The highest average losses were among ages 70 and older.

The MSP Calumet post advised hanging up on such calls. Do not give out any personal information and do not call any number provided.

An attorney with the FTC had this additional advice, through AARP, on handling possible telephone scams:

— Slow down and assess the call: If you believe there’s a chance it might be legitimate, ask questions only the grandchild would know, such as the name and species of a first pet. Even better, get off the phone and check with a family member or the person who supposedly called you. That grandchild might be safe at home or at school.

— Be even more suspicious if the caller wants a wire transfer service, an overnight delivery service or courier with a check or cash or a prepaid card or gift card. Court systems and hospitals don’t accept gift cards as payment.

Those who suspect they have been targeted or are the victim of a grandparent scam or another form of fraud should report the incident to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP. AARP’s Fraud Watch Network also provides tips and advice on how to spot and avoid scams.

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