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A phone scam is ringing the phones of seniors in Oldham County after making news across the country.
At least two senior citizens have reported phone calls from scam artists claiming to be relatives and asking money be wired to them in Boliva.
Oldham County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Meece received a phone call last week after a 78-year-old Countryside resident fell victim to the scam.
Junior Dickson received a call from a person identifying himself as Dickson’s grandson, using the grandson’s name. The caller said he needed money wired to post bail after a DUI charge while attending a wedding in Boliva.
Dickson wired money, and received three more calls for more money — one later that day and one the following day. He wired additional funds after the second and third calls, but refused when the caller asked a fourth time.
Dickson told Meece he was unable to reach his grandson on the first day and became suspicious. Dickson later verified his grandson was in Louisville during the incident.
However, Dickson had already wired more than $15,000 to Santa Cruz through Western Union.
Oldham County Police received a similar report last week as well, with a caller requesting about $2,800 being sent to the same city in Bolivia. The funds were not sent, however.
Meece said scammers prey on older residents and play on their emotions. So much information is available online, Meece said, that callers can pretend to be friends or relatives of the victims.
Callers will often use ploys to keep victims from verifying information — a caller pretending to be a grandchild in trouble might say he wants to tell his parents about the incident himself, and ask the victim to not call the parents.
Meece said sheriff’s deputies are hosting crime prevention meetings across the county in an attempt to prevent more residents from being scammed.
Websites like Facebook make it easy for scammers to obtain personal information — even if a senior citizen isn’t online, grandchildren often are.
Seniors are often the target for scammers, and may not know what type of information scammers can obtain online.
“This is absolutely something people need to be aware of,” Meece said. “Never, never wire money until you’ve contacted law enforcement.”
Protect yourself against phone scams
The “grandchild in trouble” scam is well-documented throughout the United States. If you receive a phone call from your “grandchild” asking for emergency money:
- Do not wire the money before speaking to law enforcement
- Do not provide the caller with personal information
- Do not keep the call a secret from other family members even if asked by the caller
- Do call the grandchild directly or another family member to verify the situation
- Do call law enforcement to report the scam by calling dispatch at 222-0111.