I've been covering police news in a variety of forms for about 15 years.
Some of the reports are almost too funny to believe. But other reports are almost too sad to read and I shake my head and ask myself. "Why?"
The reports that break my heart are those that involve crimes against children and against the elderly. Lately we’ve covered a lot of quick-money scams where a person places a call to a resident, pretends to be a relative, and convinces that person to send money or gift cards through the mail. The scams are usually against an elderly person.
Most of these scams prey on the elderly because they are more trusting and haven't been exposed to these types of things, police say.
A lot of elderly folks are "looking for that one, last, big thing they could do for their family and most of them feel giving a large amount of money is it," says a post on the Macedonia police Facebook page.
I knew a lady at my church who fell for a scam. No matter how much I tried to tell her that she should not send money to win money, she thought I was wrong. Every week she would give me an update and ask me what she should do.
I kept telling her to talk to her family and the police, but she would not. I'm not sure how much money she was taken for, but I'm sure it was in the thousands. She was convinced Publisher's Clearing House was going to make her rich. I'm sure she felt that way until she died a few months later.
That scam is still around. I wrote an article about it just the other day.
The scams are not jokes or harmless pranks. These scams are designed to take money from the elderly in a criminal act.
Another scam making the rounds is the grandson scam. I've covered several of these too.
The details of the scam varies, but the intent and main script stays intact:
A grandmother answers her telephone.
"Hi grandma. This is your grandson. I’m out of the country on vacation and I’ve been in a traffic accident. I need some money for the attorney. Can you help me grandma?"
"Johnny, is this you?"
"Johnny? Why yes grandma, it’s Johnny. I’m in trouble and I’m using my one telephone call for you."
These scammers are slick. Remember that.
This sweet grandma, whose heart is probably beating out of her chest with worry, has no idea she has just helped the scammers. She has given them a name to work with and an identity, in her mind, of her grandson Johnny. This is her Johnny and he needs her help. Johnny is in danger of bad men putting him in jail.
No. Johnny is not.
Sometimes the person will ask her not to tell his parents and he promises to pay the money back as soon as he can. Other times the person calling pretends to be an attorney for the grandchild, who needs money to help "Johnny" out of a legal jam.
The caller may not even need to weasel the name of a grandchild out of the grandma or grandpa.
According to police, they may simply ask the grandparent, "Don’t you recognize me?"
According to police the scammer will ask for some form of monetary payment, even asking for gift cards from a variety of stores, to be mailed to him. The totals requested from one Hudson resident had recently reached into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to police.
Every couple of weeks I read about his happening to residents across the area.
What can the police do to help?
Pretty much nothing. Their hands are tied. The money is usually being sent out of the county. By the time police get involved it’s usually too late.
Several weeks ago Hudson police caught a break and were able to stop a package being sent out by a resident which contained gift cards worth several thousand dollars, hidden in magazines. It was to be shipped out of the country to little "Johnny’s" attorney.
The elderly person who gets scammed is usually too embarrassed to tell their relatives what happened, so the crime can go unreported while "Johnny" is enjoying grandma's life savings on a warm island somewhere.
The only real thing that can be done is to talk to our elderly family and friends. Bring it to their attention so they will have it embedded in their minds in case someone tries it on them.
While these scams often target our older generations, a gullible millennial’s money can also be targeted.
According to police, the most important thing to remember is that if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Hudson Police Detective Kaija Jeantet suggests that people who believe they are being scammed just hang up the phone.
If it sounds like your grandson is in trouble, she says "hang up and check with family members to make sure the kid is OK," she said. "Save yourself a lot of money, heartache and embarrassment."