The Powell Police Department is warning residents about a phone scam designed to get their money.

The Powell Police Department is warning residents about a phone scam designed to get their money.

The "grandma scam" preys upon the emotions of senior citizens. It starts with a phone call in which the scammer tells the victim that a grandchild has been hospitalized or arrested out of the country and needs money for the medical bill or bail.

A scammer recently used the "grandma scam" to prey upon an 86-year-old Powell resident, said Powell police detective Darren Smith.

The scammer uses emotional language to make the victim believe the story, but never reveals the whereabouts of the grandchild. The scammer might also urge the victim not to contact anyone else about the phone call, supposedly to spare the grandchild embarrassment or legal trouble or to avoid delay. Finally, he asks the victim to send money immediately through wire transfer, usually Western Union or MoneyGram. Once the money is received, the scammer often calls back and asks the grandparent to pay additional money for other charges.

"The victim stated that she was contacted by phone by an unknown male subject who said her grandson had been involved in a car accident," Smith said, noting that the resident sent about $3,300 to the Dominican Republic via Western Union.

"It was an unfortunate experience she was concerned for her grandchild," Smith said.

The incident occurred July 15. The resident could not be reached for comment.

After the money was sent, the resident received another call asking for another $3,500, at which time she contacted family members and then the police department, the incident report said.

The scam has been going on throughout the country "for quite some time," Smith said.

"It is the first incident in the city. We're still trying to get telephone numbers, and I traced (the call) to out of the country. I turned it over to the United States Secret Service, which works this type of investigation," Smith said.

Smith said a couple of similar incidents occurred in the city of Delaware, and he's concerned that the scammers may be targeting the area.

Delaware County sheriff Walter Davis' office is working on a similar case.

"Currently the office is investigating a case where an elderly woman was conned out of thousands of dollars by someone claiming to be her grandson. The caller was scammed into thinking her grandson was in jail and needed money for bail," Davis said. "Unfortunately this type of crime is nothing new. It's important we talk with the elderly in our community, and let them know these scams are happening in our area. Remind your elderly loved ones and neighbors not to disclose any information over the phone. If a caller says, 'It's me, grandma!' don't respond with a name, but instead let the caller explain who he or she is. Asking a few simple questions, could save them from becoming a victim of a crime."

Smith advises that anyone getting a phone call like this should not be carried away by persuasive language or a believable story. Even if the scammer knows things like your grandchild's name and age, people should demand all the details about the situation, including the name and location of the hospital or jail, specific criminal charges, etc.

"Do not share personal information about you or your family, and never give out bank account information or Social Security numbers," Smith said. "Once the phone call ends, verify your grandchild's whereabouts with other relatives and your grandchild's friends, coworkers, school officials and classmates before you give any money to the caller. You can always contact your local police department for assistance with verifying your grandchild's whereabouts, and you should definitely contact police if you feel the phone call is fraudulent."

These kinds of phone calls should be reported to police immediately and consumer complaints can also be filed with the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.ftc.gov to file a consumer complaint. The non-emergency telephone number for the Powell police number is (614) 885-5005, and for the sheriff's office it's (740) 833-2800.