HOMER TWP. — When Mary Ann Crawford answered the phone, the man on the line said something no grandmother wants to hear.
“The phone was scratchy, but he said he needed bail money because he was locked up in jail in Las Vegas or Reno or something,” said Crawford, of Homer Township.
“Who is this?” Crawford asked.
“You don’t even know the sound of your own grandson’s voice?” the caller asked.
That’s when Crawford knew the call was a scam.
“Considering my oldest grandson is 13 years old, I don’t think he’s driving around drunk in Reno,” she told The Gazette in a phone interview Friday.
Crawford was one of the lucky ones. The timeless “grandparent scam” cost another grandmother in Medina Township a couple thousand dollars last month.
Though she didn’t fall for the scam, Crawford said she still feels a little unsafe.
“It makes you feel creepy that these people know I’m a grandparent and somehow got my phone number,” Crawford said. “If an intruder tries to get in, I have a small gun to shoot them with, a dog to protect me and deadbolts on my door.
“But with a scammer, I can’t protect myself.”
Crawford reported her call to the Medina County Sheriff’s Office. But police across the county are saying there’s not much they can do about phone scams.
“Once you send that money, there’s nothing we can do,” Medina Township police Sgt. Todd Zieja said. “We can’t track where it’s going: It’s gone.”
Zieja, who handled the case in Medina Township last month, said the scammers are relentless. Even if most people don’t fall for their pitch, it’s worth their while to keep at it.
The con artists may be using websites like WhitePages.com to get the ages and phone numbers of potential victims, he said. They call on “pay-as-you-go” phones, often called “burners,” that are practically untraceable.
Zieja said the latest version of the “grandparent scam” uses Green Dot or MoneyPak cards, which can be bought at major retailers like Wal-Mart, CVS or Rite Aid and then loaded with cash. The cards include identification numbers that can be shared over the phone and used to access the money remotely.
Zieja said he wishes there was some way he could help people who fall victim to scams.
“The only way to try to put a stop to these scams is to let people know it’s happening and preempt it,” Zieja said. “As much as you’re compelled to help because you’re a good-natured person, think about what you’re doing first. Don’t let them pull you in hook, line and sinker.”
Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.