July 25, 2016

Partly cloudy

‘Grandma,’ debit card scams being reported

Wadsworth police are warning residents about a “grandma scam” in the city and FirstEnergy is cautioning customers about a scam involving prepaid debit cards.

Wadsworth police Lt. Rob Wyrick said an elderly city woman reported Tuesday she received a phone call from a man who referred to her as “grandma” and wanted money to be sent to an account.

The caller said he had been drinking the prior day and was in a minor car crash. He proceeded to tell the woman he was in jail and only would be released if she wired money to pay for damages.

“This scam has been around for a long time,” Wyrick said. “It looks like it’s rearing its ugly head.”

The woman was asked to send money to a local bank and not to tell anyone about the call, Wyrick said. She recognized the scam and did not send any money.

“A lot of the time the caller wants money through a transfer company, such as Money Gram or Western Union,” Wyrick said.

The number on the caller ID was from a Canadian area code. Past calls have originated from the Canadian area codes of 406, 416 and 514, the lieutenant said.

If a “grandma scam” is suspected, police advise people to ask the caller a few personal questions only family members could answer, Wyrick said.

Questions could relate to birthdays, home or work addresses or ages of family members, he said.

The scam is reported on occasion, Wyrick said.

“We’ve seen it. It’s no surprise when it pops up,” he said.

In the debit card scam, a telephone caller poses as an electric utility company employee threatening to shut off power unless an immediate payment is made using a prepaid debit card, such as a Green Dot card, according to a FirstEnergy news release.

Prepaid cards typically are available at convenience stores and drug stores and can be used by consumers to pay bills or add money to online accounts.
However, Green Dot cards are not officially sanctioned by FirstEnergy as a bill payment method, the release said.

“Customers should know that if they get a call from someone demanding payment of their electric bill by using a Green Dot card they are being scammed and should report the crime to local authorities,” Ronald I. Green, FirstEnergy vice president of customer service, said in a statement.

“While we may phone a customer whose bill is in arrears in order to remind them that a payment is due, we would explain how a payment can be made using established payment options.”

Contact Steve Grazier at (330) 721-4012 or sgrazier@medina-gazette.com.