Gephardt: Protect Yourself From Rising Tide Of Imposter Scams
OREM, Utah – As if we didn’t need any more trouble during this pandemic, an old con playing on the hearts of parents and grandparents has returned with a vengeance.
It’s called the family emergency scam, or the grandparent scam – a fast-moving extortion scheme that involves a call from a panicked family member who needs thousands of dollars and quickly.
It could be a grandchild in trouble, a niece, a son or a daughter, or even a friend or neighbor. You’re not given any time to think, and it nearly snagged an Orem father, when he received a call more terrifying than most moms or dads could imagine.
“’I need you to pull over, sir,’” is how the call started, said Logan MacGyver.
“I’m not driving dude, what’s your problem?” was his response. “Then, the next thing I heard was ‘Dad, I am hurt. Dad, I’m really hurt.”
As the call unfolded, MacGyver learned that his son, Owen, had inadvertently walked into a drug deal and now in the hands of narcotics traffickers.
“It sounded exactly like Owen when he’s in distress,” MacGyver explained.
They wanted money.
“He (the caller) proceeded to say, ‘Your son is tied up. He is in my vehicle and if you don’t comply we will snap his neck,’” MacGyver said.
The father said he screamed back into his phone.
“’You’re not going to touch my son,’” he told the dealers. “I said, ‘That will be the last thing you do.’”
Agonizing silence came from the other end for a few moments, and then he heard voices in the background.
“It sounded like he was talking to somebody on his end,” said MacGyver. “He says, ’Hey, man – this guy don’t care about his kid. Just snap his neck,’ and then he hung up.”
MacGyver said he went berserk at that moment.
“I started crying. I was shaking,” he said. “I thought, ‘What am I going to do? What am I going to do?’”
Owen MacGyver was never in the hands of murderous extortionists. He was out of reach, hiking with a dead cell phone. A buddy with him got word of the situation.
“Then he goes something along the lines of, ‘Oh, and it sounds like somebody was going to strangle you,’” Owen said. “I’m like, ‘What?’”
Owen jumped on the phone.
“The first thing I do is I call my dad. I couldn’t even recognize his voice because of how distraught he was,” he recounted.
It’s called the family emergency scam or the grandparent scam. Every year, bad guys make tens of millions of dollars by pretending to be relatives or friends in deep trouble. They are good at it.
Officials recommend Utahns watch what they post on social media. That is a gold mine for names and info a scammer can use to make his or her schemes seem legit.
Ask questions only your relative can answer. MacGyver told KSL that since the call, he has come up with safe words for each of his kids.
“Just in case someone really has you, ‘OK, what’s the safe word?’, he explained. “You don’t have the safe word; you don’t have my son.”
Security experts also said hang up your phone and call your relative in trouble or friend directly, or call someone who knows where they are.
MacGyver compared hearing his son’s voice again to receiving a gift.
“I love this kid,” he said.
Officials said scammers will do anything they can to keep you on the line. They want you to act immediately – without thinking – so they’re going to pull all the dramatic strings they can.
You’ve got to check the story out because once you wire money, it’s gone – and you’ll never get it back.
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