June 27, 2016

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Scammers targeting grandparents with bail money ploy

David Knox and Nick Glunt | The Gazette

MEDINA TWP. — An old scam with a new twist has surfaced in Medina County.

Township police reported an elderly resident received a phone call from someone claiming to be the woman’s college-age grandson who was in jail in a Central American country and needed bail money.

While the request for bail money is a well-worn ploy, the manner of payment was something new.

The young man handed the phone over to someone who identified himself as a “law enforcement official,” Medina Township police Sgt. Todd Zieja said.

He said the grandmother was told to pay for the bail bond by purchasing Green Dot or MoneyPak cards, which can be bought at major retailers like Wal-Mart, CVS or Rite Aid.

“Once the card is purchased, the victim is instructed to scratch off and reveal the numbers on the back of the card, call the ‘law enforcement official’ back and provide them with the numbers,” Zieja said. “Once the scammer obtains the numbers on the back of the card, they can drain the funds on the card immediately.”

Zieja said the woman lost several thousand dollars.

Zieja said the con artists are experts at making their pitch sound believable and take advantage of the fact many college students travel outside the United States for spring break.

“The callers will use fear and intimidation to convince the victims to purchase the cards,” he said. “Oftentimes they may have specific detailed information that may seem legitimate” often gathered from social media websites.

Zieja said the scammers also have a way of keeping the victim from checking with their families and discovering the calls are a sham: During the call, the youngster pleads, “Please don’t tell my parents.”

The demand for money cards is a national trend.

“They are a convenient way to pay bills online, make purchases via the Internet and reload money onto prepaid cards,” Zieja said. “Scammers like them because they are more convenient than wiring money, but just as untraceable.”

Contact managing editor David Knox at (330) 721-4065 or dknox@medina-gazette.com. Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.

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The Gazette is Medina County's daily local news source, serving the community since 1832. Contact The Gazette's news department at (330) 721-4065 or areanews@medina-gazette.com.