Bail money scam in Douglas targets parents, grandparents
A telephone scam that preys on parents and grandparents of teenagers and young adults is making the rounds again in Douglas County.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Halsey said the scammers find students who are on spring or summer break, call their relatives, and claim the student was arrested and needs bail money.
The suspects use social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace to gain information about the students.
“Due to the fact that often during school break young adults do not talk to their parents or grandparents for days or weeks, the scam is extremely effective,” Halsey said. “The scam artists exploit this communication gap, and have made off with a lot of money.”
A suspect contacts the potential victim posing as a bail bondsman or law enforcement officer, Halsey said. The suspect tells the potential victim that their relative has been arrested for some minor crime, and is trying to post bail but does not have the money to do so.
They tell the potential victim that if they want to assist their relative in posting bail, they need to wire funds to a designated Western Union or MoneyGram agent location, in the name of the relative.
The scammers use fraudulent identification when they collect the funds from the site.
The phony caller will sometimes put someone else on the line who impersonates a law enforcement officer or jailer.
Many of these phone calls are being done through Internet telephone services, or are originating in Canada and Mexico, making tracking and the prosecution nearly impossible.
Halsey said the scam has made a resurgence in Douglas County.
Sheriff Ron Pierini recommends the following security measures:
n Ask to speak to the family member. If denied, attempt to contact the relative or family member they are calling about to confirm their whereabouts.
n If the caller claims to be at a jail or police station, ask where and get the telephone number so you can call back. Confirm the phone number using the Internet or directory assistance before calling.
n Try to confirm the caller’s legitimacy by asking them for the full name, date of birth, Social Security number and city/state of birth of the detained family member. These are all standard booking questions.
n Advise the caller to confirm the relative’s detention by having them ask the arrested relative for unconventional information, for example, their elementary school, the street where they grew up, or the name of family pet.