Grandparents scam hits close to home for students on campus

Some scammers feed off people’s desires for wealth and greed.

Some take advantage of honest people who are simply trying to conduct straightforward business transactions, and some scammers, perhaps the worst of all,  victimize people who are motivated only by a good-hearted desire to help those in need.

A grandparents scam which has affected several UMHB students, falls into the last   category.

Although it is the first time this particular crime has affected campus, it is not an original idea.

Two to three cases of a UMHB student being affected by the grandparents scam have been reported.

Each story follows a similar pattern no matter where it happens.

The scammer acts like a grandchild and calls the grandparents telling them that they are stuck in some situation and that they need money wired for help.

The concerning part is just how much information the callers are able to find on their victims.

University Police Chief Gary Sargent warns students crooks can get information from Facebook and random Internet surveys.

“In the scams that happened on campus, there was no breach of university security,” he said. “The reported incidents said the scammers knew information that (UMHB) doesn’t even collect.”

Senior sport management major Josh Pownall was one of the UMHB students who fell prey to the grandparents scam.

“The scammers called my grandparents and impersonated me and told them that I had run into trouble in Canada and that I needed bail money,” he said.

Pownall’s grandparents followed through with the request and wired money to the number given.

However, upon realizing that it was a scam, they were reimbursed.

Grandparents are often the target of these criminals because some grandparents rarely have contact with their grandchildren and, therefore, are less likely to remember what their voice sounds like or if they were      traveling.

“Grandparents are more vulnerable and trustworthy,” Sargent said. “The scammer plays into emotions and the desire for their need to help.”

Most crimes of this nature are conducted via the telephone.

However reports have surfaced from around the country in which the scammers used email, text messaging and even instant messaging.

The best protection from scams like this one is awareness and knowledge.

“Realize that there are people out (in the world) who make money by stealing yours,” Pownall said. “Make yourself aware of the current scams.”

Calling grandparents and informing them that criminals are impersonating grandchildren and asking for money will help ensure that  they don’t become a victim.

An email sent out by the campus police department listed several guidelines to help avoid the scam:

•Make sure your family is aware of the scam.

•Never wire money without verifying the need.

•Never release personal information about yourself or your family.

•Report any solicitations of this nature to local police.

•Make sure your family knows when you are traveling.

In general, pleas for money from people with whom you have only casual or infrequent contact should definitely be handled with Ronald Reagan’s signature phrase in mind: “Trust, but verify.”


Author: Lindsay Schaefer

Lindsay Schaefer is a junior Mass Communication, Public Relations major at UMHB. She is the Entertainment Page editor for The Bells Newspaper. Growing up in the small town of Nacogdoches, Texas taught her to enjoy the simple things in life such as local cuisine, an afternoon at grandma’s house, and getting to know her “neighbors”. If she’s not hunting for the latest pair of shoes, she can most likely be found eating chocolate cake with her closest friends. She enjoys making copies for the Bells newspaper and taking on many other random assignments!

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