A Rockville Centre woman paid $8,000 to a man pretending to be her grandson on Aug. 4 as part of a criminal trend taking place across the country.
The man on the phone claimed that he was arrested in New Jersey, and that he needed her to send bail money over the phone using Visa gift cards, according to village spokeswoman Julie Scully. The woman did, and grew suspicious when the man said she needed to send another $6,000. She called her son, who told her that her grandson was sleeping.
Lt. Chris Romance of the RVC police department said that this type of scam is increasingly common, and that residents should be aware of how they work.
According to scam-prevention notices provided by the police department, these scammers use a variety of tactics to try to scare victims into sending money. “A caller might attempt to convince a victim that her husband or son had gotten into a car accident with a member of a gang,” it states, “or a caller might attempt to convince a victim that his daughter was kidnapped by having a young female scream for help in the background during the call. … The most prominent scams involve car accidents, drug debts, gang assaults, or persons being smuggled across the border. Victim telephone numbers appear to be dialed at random.”
Romance says that the scammers are flexible, and that they have a script for whoever picks up the phone. “If it sounds like an older person, they’ll use a grandkid,” he said. “If it’s a younger person, they’ll use a grandparent. If it’s a man, they use a wife, and if it’s a woman, they’ll use a husband.”
He also said that it’s hard to track them, because they use technology that lets them disguise their true phone numbers. “We try to call them back,” Romance noted, “and the phone number doesn’t exist.”
Police Commissioner Charles Gennario stressed that it’s a red flag when people are contacted by someone claiming to be law enforcement from outside the area. “If we need to track someone down in, let’s say, Los Angeles, we’ll call the LAPD, and they’ll track them down for us,” he said, adding that in almost all of the scenarios that scammers invent, the best thing to do is to call your own local police department.