Northborough PD warns that phone scams are on the rise

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By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Northborough – Two billion dollars was lost in fraud and phone scams last year, according to Northborough Detective Sergeant Brian Griffin. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported on its website that they have received 3.2 million reports. Especially hard hit are seniors, 65 years and older.

“When talking about fraud and scam cases, every day it seems like we deal with a different type, a different form,” Griffin remarked.

He has been in law enforcement for at least 20 years. Over the past month or so he has seen an uptick in the “grandchild in jail scam” or, as the FTC calls them, the “grandparent scam.”

It’s nothing new and many victims experience considerable financial loss. Recently, a local victim lost upwards of $15,000.

“Basically, it’s an impostor scam and they’re reaching out to seniors – usually pretending to be a grandson,” he shared. “They’ve researched the person and they’ll sometimes use social media to see if they have a grandchild and to see where the grandchild lives.”

The caller will use a variety of means to get their hands on the victim’s cash, such as requesting the victim to wire bail money or telling them that a courier is in the area and can come directly to their home.

“The other thing they are telling the grandparent is to not tell anyone else,” Griffin added.

Victims have also been requested to mail cash via the United Parcel Service to an address belonging to a vacant building or house. Griffin said that this scenario is easier for law enforcement to intervene because the impostor will get a notification of delivery and will retrieve the package. If notified in time, local law enforcement can meet and arrest the impostor.

He strongly urges people to report these incidents. They frequently go unreported because the victims are too embarrassed.

When asked if they have had success in retrieving any of the money, Griffin said, “No, not at the moment, although there have been some arrests.”

He recommended that anyone who gets this type of call, especially before going to the bank, to take a pause and reach out to their grandchild or other relative to verify whether they indeed are in trouble. Confirm and check in with someone else.

“If you were to fall victim, immediately contact us so that we can work quickly… and report it to the FTC,” he recommended. “Be aware of any phone call or email.”

To report an incident to the FTC, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/01/top-frauds-2019.

To contact the Northborough Police Department, call 508-393-1515.