Ohioans lose $550,000 in ‘grandparent scams’ in 2017

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WEST CARROLLTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A common phone scam targeting grandparents is seeing a comeback and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office is warning of the dangers.

It’s known as the ‘grandparent scam’ and involves scammers taking advantage of elderly people by calling them and pretending to be a grandchild. It’s exactly what happened to Hazel Atkinson when she got a call from someone she was convinced was her grandson asking for money.

It all started with a phone call from someone claiming to be Atkinson’s 20-year-old grandson Austin.

“It sounded exactly like him,” Atkinson said. “His tone. His mannerisms.”

He was in trouble and needed money, claiming he’d been arrested in Mexico for drunk driving. He needed $900 in cash to be bailed out of jail.

Jordan: “You were convinced that it was him?”

Hazel: “Yeah.”

Atkinson withdrew $900 from her bank account, but before she went through with the transfer she says she got a gut feeling.

“I knew something was going on that should not be.”

That’s when she called her son-in-law Jeff Kimbrell who answered the phone when the scammer called back.

“I said what’s my nickname for you and that’s when they hung up.”

Kimbrell then called Austin’s parents who confirmed he wasn’t in Mexico, but at home in Ohio.

“If one grandma can be drawn into something,” Atkinson said. “Like that others are going to be.”

According to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, in 2017 Ohioans lost more than half a million in ‘grandparent scams’.

“People being target by,” Dayton Better Business Bureau President John North said. “These scams is going to continue to grow.”

North says that’s because nowadays people are sharing more online than ever before.

To best protect yourself, don’t share any personal information online and make sure your phone number isn’t public. If you get a call, resist the pressure to act quickly and ask questions about the family only they would know or simply hang up and report the scam to law enforcement.

Atkinson says she’s relieved she followed her gut instinct.

“I was very thankful,” Atkinson said. “That it didn’t go through.”

Last year in Ohio, the most money stolen from one single victim was more than $37,000. To date, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office says prosecuted more 150 people for crimes related to the ‘grandparent’ scam.

To report a scam to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, click here.

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