CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC)– Chesterfield police are warning residents about a common scam that has been circulating in the county recently.
According to police, seniors, in particular, are being targeted. In recent cases, families have lost tens of thousands of dollars.
Lieutenant Russell Granderson works with the Criminal Investigations Division and Crimes Against Property Unit for Chesterfield Police.
Granderson told 8News that three Chesterfield families are out almost $80,000 after scammers called their relatives pleading for cash fast. The scammers pretended to be bail bondsmen and told the victims, who are usually seniors, that their grandchildren were in jail or have been involved in an accident.
One even called impersonating the child.
“This particular offender pretended to be a grandchild, stated she had been in an accident, she was in jail and needed a lot of cash,” Granderson said.
In all of the cases, the victim went to the bank and withdrew a large sum of money, before the scammers came to the victims’ houses to collect it.
Rich Ryan, a Chesterfield resident, said his family members have experienced these types of scams on two separate occasions.
Ryan said the first occurrence was in 2017 and the second was in 2019.
In the first instance, his father received a phone call from someone that said his grandson was in Europe and was in jail. The person asked Ryan’s father for $5,000. Fortunately, Ryan said his father didn’t fall for it.
The second time, his mother-in-law received a phone call saying that her grandchild was in an Arizona jail because he hit a pregnant woman with a baby carrier, and needed bail money.
Ryan’s mother-in-law then drove to Walmart and sent the scammer $1,500 through Western Union. Ryan said he tried to call his son to verify what his mother-in-law was told, but couldn’t get in touch with him.
“Part of the challenge was I tried to call my son and he didn’t answer his phone for a while,” Ryan said.
Ryan said he called the number – which had a New York area code – to confirm the caller’s identity.
“It makes me angry and it’s frustrating,” Ryan said. “I think they’re really taking advantage of elderly folks who don’t in most cases and in my case, didn’t really have a good, strong grasp on social media.”
According to the Better Business Bureau, this kind of behavior is called a “grandparent scam.” It’s a type of emergency scam about a loved one in a dire situation. You get a call, email or social media message from someone claiming to be a family member in distress. The scammer then gives convincing details, such as family names and school details. The con artist also can call as the grandparent instead of the grandchild.
“The nature of these calls are so emotional and they’re so sly in what they do. Time is of the essence,” Ryan said. “They try to get you to make a quick emotional decision. Push the pause button just to get clarity.”
To avoid scams, the Better Business Bureau suggests people:
- Resist the urge to act immediately
- Know what their family members are sharing online
- Don’t wire money if there is any doubt about the call
Chesterfield police said the recent cases could possibly be an organized crime group. This kind of crime is considered a felony.
“It’s disturbing because the seniors are really the backbone of our community,” Granderson said. “We want to avoid having more victims. We’ll do whatever we can do to prevent more victimization.”
If you’ve been a victim of this scam or notice anything suspicious call Chesterfield Police.