The grandparents of missionaries latest target of scammers
As scams go, this sounds almost painfully logical.
A scam artist called grandparents of a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to inform them that their beloved grandchild had got him or herself into a jam—namely a DUI—and needed to get bailed out. "Please send money."
Notice the DUI. How clever to add that wrinkle to their pitch, knowing that Mormons abhor liquor consumption as much as they do the thought that such a sticky situation might become known in the local ward.
The grandparents obligingly wired $3,885 to a supposed bail bondsman to get their grandkid out of jail.
According to a press release from Consumer Protection, this scheme isn't a one off. The details of the family's account mirror the reports of others who have reported such "grandparent scam" calls to the Division of Consumer Protection.
The division quoted the advice of Elder Brent H. Nielson, the executive director of the LDS Church's Missionary Department, which is, if you receive a similar call, to hang up the phone and dial "the mission office or the church's missionary department to verify the information.If a missionary is indeed in trouble, the church would reach out to the family through their stake president and would never ask for money from the family."
Mormon families are advised to be careful when it comes to putting out the names of serving missionaries, their locations, and their companions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al.
The following are some intriguing tips from Consumer Protection how not to be a victim of this type of scam:
They impersonate your loved ones convincingly.
• How do these scammers choose you to contact? Sometimes they contact people randomly. They also use marketing lists, telephone listings, and information from social networking sites, obituaries and other sources. Sometimes they hack into people’s email accounts and send messages to everyone in their contact list.
• How do these scammers know the names of your friends or relatives? In some cases they don’t. For instance, the scammer may say “Hi Grandma,” hoping that you actually have a grandson. If you ask, “David, is that you?” the scammer will say “Yes!” Often these crooks will call in the middle of the night and take advantage of the fact that you may not be awake enough to ask more questions and you may not want to disturb other people by calling them to confirm the information. Sometimes the scammers do know the names of your friends or relatives. They can get that information from a variety of sources. Your relatives may be mentioned in an obituary or on a social networking site. Your email contact list may contain the names of friends and relatives.
Scammers play on your emotions.
• What do these scammers usually say? They might say something like, “I’m in Canada and I’m trying to get home but my car broke down, and I need money right away to get it fixed.” Or they may claim to have been mugged, or been in a car accident, or need money for bail or to pay customs fees to get back into the United States from another country. They may also pose as an attorney or law enforcement official contacting you on behalf of a friend or relative. No matter the story, they always want you to send money immediately.
They insist you send money right away
• If you realize you’ve been scammed, what can you do? These scammers ask you to send money through services such as Western Union and MoneyGram because they can pick it up quickly, in cash. They often use phony IDs, so it’s impossible to trace them. Contact the money transfer service immediately to report the scam. If the money hasn’t been picked up yet, you can retrieve it, but if it has, it’s not like a check that you can stop—the money is gone.
• How can you protect your email account from being used by scammers? Use a firewall and anti‐virus and anti‐spyware software. Many computers come with these features already included. They are also easy to find on the Internet. Keep your software updated. Don’t open attachments in emails from strangers, since they can contain programs that enable crooks to get into your computer remotely.
• What else can you do to protect yourself? If you get a call or email from someone claiming to know you and asking for help, check to confirm that it’s legitimate before you send any money. Ask some questions that would be hard for an imposter to answer correctly—the name of the person’s pet, for example, or the date of their mother’s birthday. Contact the person who they claim to be directly. If you can’t reach the person, contact someone else—a friend or relative of the person. Don’t send money unless you’re sure it’s the real person you know.
For more information or to file a consumer complaint with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, log on to; ConsumerProtection.utah.gov