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FOX23 speaks to TPD’s Financial Crimes Unit about a scam against the elderly

TULSA, Okla. — A part of stopping crime, is preventing it.

FOX23′s Sara Whaley spoke to Tulsa Police Financial Crimes Lt. Andrew Weeden about a scam they are seeing targeting the elderly.

Sara Whaley (SW): “Tell us a little bit about these scams, what you want people to know, right?”

Lt. Andrew Weeden (Lt. W): “So one of the scams that we’re dealing with right now is an imposter scam, or what we like to call a grandparent scam, because it does target the elderly community. However, anybody can be a victim. But with a lot of these scams, what start’s out as a phone call, and the phone call will be from an unknown number and a lot of times it will be in the middle of the night, sometime when you’re least expecting it. And what happens is, the caller on the other end of the line will try to tell you something to get you upset or to get you uneasy, right? And a lot of times, what we see is the person on the end of the line says, ‘Hey, your loved one has been in a car accident’ or ‘Your loved one has been arrested and you need to take some sort of immediate action in order to perform that life saving surgery,’ right? And so what these scammers will say is, ‘Hey, your loved one has been in a car accident in Dallas, Texas, and we need $10,000 immediately for that hospital to perform this life saving surgery.’”

Lt. W: “A lot of times, these scammers will use personal information. So they’ll actually go online and they might find out that you do actually have a grandchild in Dallas and they’ll get a name, that sort of thing. So they’ll make it seem real, right, and personal. And so ultimately, what this scam is trying to do is, it’s trying to get you to believe that a loved one has been in a serious car accident and that you need to pay $10,000 to this person in order for that loved one to be saved.”

SW: “Anybody can be targeted. But you say, a lot of times, they are targeting the elderly a little bit more, right?”Lt. W: “What we see, and why we call it the grandparent scam, is because a lot of these scammers will look for elderly people that have a lot of life savings, right? So a lot of people late in life, they have a large amount of money in their bank account, maybe. And a lot of times people have large families, right? So they’ll have a lot of grandchildren. And so, calling an elderly person in the middle of the night and saying, ‘Your grandchild Tommy has been in an accident,’ a lot of times they’ll wake up and they’ll say, ‘Well, I do have a grandchild named Tommy and this must be real,’ right? And so a lot of times the people, the elderly people, will get a little confused and they’ll think, ‘Well, man, I have to go get this $10,000 out of the bank and send it to wherever the scammer wants me to send it.’”

SW: “Is this actually happening in Tulsa, Oklahoma? Do we have people falling for this?”

Lt. W: “Yes. It’s unfortunate, but we have people fall for it all the time. The Tulsa Police Department receives probably five to ten of these reports each week, and so ultimately, there’s a lot of people falling for them, and there’s a lot of people that are losing a lot of money.”

SW: “You say this is the type of crime that is really hard to solve.”

Lt. W: “It is. And because most of these scams originate from overseas or outside of the jurisdiction of the Tulsa Police Department, one of the things that we see is, we see the scammers using phone numbers that are area codes from outside of the country. And what happens is, if you go take $10,000, say, out of the bank, right? And then you wire transfer it to an account. A lot of times, what we find is, when we start the investigation, we’re able to follow that money. But we follow that money, and we’ll see that that money was transferred out of the United States. And at that point in time, it’s just very difficult to hold the real scammers responsible.”

SW: “So if you could sum it up, what do you want people at home to know?”

Lt. W: “So if you get a call in the middle of the night, right, and somebody is saying, ‘Hey, a loved one has been in a car accident or a loved one is in jail and you need to get money to pay for their release from jail,’ or ‘You need to get money to pay for medical treatment as soon as possible,’ right? If you get a call that says that, we want people to know that time is on your side. Right. Hang up the phone, call that loved one, call another family member. Find out if they actually have been in an accident or if they actually have been arrested for something. A lot of times what you’ll find is, you’ll call that family member and you’ll find out that they’re alive and well.”

SW: “And asleep, too.”

Lt. W: “Right. And asleep. Right. And so what we like to tell people is, if you get one of these calls, just use a little bit of common sense, and if your intuition tells you that, ‘Man, this might be a scam,’ it probably is. Right. And so, just, time is on your side. Hang up the phone, call family members, try to see if this claim is legitimate or not.”

SW: “So a lot of times, I’ve heard with these, of course they want you to wire transfer it or buy a gift card, that sort of thing. Is that all they’re doing?”

Lt. W: “Well, so those are the two most common, right? And so you’ll get that call in the middle of the night, we need $10,000, and they’ll say, go to your bank, withdraw the money, and then take it to a Bitcoin ATM and submit the money into a Bitcoin machine, right? Or they’ll tell you to take out a couple thousand dollars, go to Walmart and buy gift cards. But we have recently seen a kind of a scary trend, and that is actually sending somebody to your house to pick up the money in person. And we really want to warn people about this. And just know that if somebody calls you and says, you need to pay $10,000 to get some sort of life saving surgery for a family member, and they say, we’re going to send somebody to your house, put the money in a brown paper bag and hand it over to them. We want you to know that this is going to be a scam. Right. If you get that kind of call, you need to call the police immediately.”

SW: “That is scary.”

Lt. W: “Yeah.”

SW: “So do they find people, because a lot of this is overseas, do they find people locally to help them?”

Lt. W: “So a lot of these scams do originate overseas. So what we’re seeing is, that if there is a courier that actually does come to your house to pick up the money, they’re not necessarily going to be the scammer, if you will, Right? And so it’s going to be some sort of courier service that’s three and four times down the line. And so even if we catch somebody that you handed the money to, it’s very, very hard for us to kind of connect the dots and hold the real scammer accountable.”

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