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Caught in 'grandparent scam': Woman warns others

6:25 AM, Mar 16, 2012   |    comments
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Carol Barrett was a victim this week of what law enforcement officials have come to know as the "Grandparents Scam."

"All I could think about is getting Tom out of foreign country and he's in trouble," said Barrett who lives in St. Michael.

The scam - which has been around for years - starts with a phone call from a supposed grandchild in who is in trouble in some faraway place.

In Barrett's case, the caller claimed to be her grandson Tom, a freshman at the University of North Dakota. The caller told Barrett he was in jail after causing a car accident in Barbados, where he had flown on short notice to attend the wedding of a friend's brother.

Still posing as Barrett's grandson, the caller said he needed $2900 to pay for the damage to the other driver's car before he would be freed from jail.

Barrett drove to a US Bank office in Monticello and wired the money as the caller requested. Later she returned to wire another $2300 after the scammer called a second time, claiming he needed money to pay for a hospital bill for an injury incurred in the car crash.

"It does haunt me because how could he have sounded like him?" Barrett now asks herself.

Once the phone's calls stopped, Barrett called her grandson's cell phone and learned he was at home the entire time.

Kyle Loven, spokesperson for the FBI's Minneapolis division, says it's unclear how scammers make their connections with grandparents. But he warns they are experts at convincing their victims they are on the phone with their own grandchild.

"The perpetrators are preying on this need and desire to help out," he says.

The bogus grandchild will often beg the grandparent not to call his parents. That was the case with Barrett's scammer, who said he wanted to explain things to his parents in person later.

Loven says such a request should always be ignored. Grandparents should call other family members to verify the claims, especially if a "grandchild" is requesting that money be wired.

Barrett reported the scam to the Wright County Sheriff's Department, but an official with the department said there is little chance she'll get her money back. The scammers are adept at hiding their tracks and are rarely prosecuted.

Embarrassed, the best Barrett can hope for now is to share her story so others don't make the same costly mistake. "I really want people to know about it."

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. )

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