The infamous “grandma scam” is hitting Oregon again, with a bit of a twist.
For those unfamiliar, this scam is where fraudsters call up locals and pose as their grandchild, saying they’ve gotten in trouble and need help getting bailed out of jail. Normally, scammers push for payment via pre-paid gift cards, but this newest iteration is a bit scarier. Scammers instead send a real person to their target’s residence, posing as a “bail bondsmen” who’s there to collect cash.
If people push back on the phone, saying they don’t recognize their “grandson’s” voice, the scammer says that’s because they’ve come down with COVID — or some other illness that’s causing their voice to change.
In truth, this is not how bail even works and it’s certainly not how local law enforcement operates.
For one, Oregon doesn’t even have bail bondsmen. Private bail bondsmen and bounty hunters are illegal in this state, and law enforcement officers definitely don’t have the time or inclination to go knocking on doors to collect bail for random arrestees who call their grandparents.
For another, no matter what reason is given for needing the money — like a wire transfer to fix their car or pay for hospital bills — the smart thing to do is hang up and verify, verify, verify.
“Don’t assume that’s the (correct) phone number calling you,” said Captain Brad Liles with the Albany Police Department. “You can find out a lot of these things just by doing a personal check.”
Look for the local sheriff’s office number and call them directly. Ask if they’ve got an inmate by your supposed family member’s name or, at the very least, describe the phone call you just had and they’ll almost certainly point out how illegitimate it is.
If someone shows up on your doorstep, don’t feel like it’s rude to not open the door for them. If they refuse to leave, call the police.
“Don’t be afraid to call the non-emergency line,” said Lt. Ryan Eaton of the Corvallis Police Department. “Our officers will absolutely come to assist in those circumstances.”
While no specific instances of this particular grandparent scam have been reported in the Mid-Valley, the Oregon Bankers Association sent out a warning in late March that scammers were moving to our area and to be alert.
The release provides the following best practices for when you encounter this or other scams:
• Resist the urge to act immediately — no matter how dramatic the story is.
• Verify the caller’s identity. Ask questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer. Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine and check the story out.