By Elaine Weinreb
Press Staff Writer
Seniors in Humboldt are being targeted by unscrupulous telephone scammers, who pretend to be a family member in trouble, and ask for money to get out of jail.
“The calls can come from anywhere in the world,” said Sheriff’s Deputy Larson from the McKinleyville Station. “For example, they called one woman, and said they were her grandson, Troy, and that he needed some bail money. Then they ask you to send money by Western Union.
“They even give you a call-back number, and if you call it, somebody answers it and impersonates a law enforcement agency,” she said.
Sheriff’s Deputy Bolton from the McKinleyville Station said that it is highly unlikely that a law enforcement agency would ever call a relative asking for bail money. Bail requests, she said, are handled by bail bondsmen.
Moreover, she said, even if a bail bondsman or law enforcement agency did call, they would require a certified check, made payable to a city or county law enforcement agency and sent through the U.S. mail to that agency’s address.
“Somebody in jail is not going to be allowed to walk out, go to Western Union, and pick up money,” she added.
“They usually ask for $2,500,” Bolton said.
Law enforcement agencies would probably call collect, she added.
If you receive such a call, get the name of the law enforcement agency that supposedly has custody of your relative. Then look online — or call 411—to get the phone number of that agency. If the phone number is different from the one that the caller left you, the call is bogus.
If you still think the call may be real, use the number you get from the telephone company or from your computer search to phone the law enforcement agency, and find out if your relative is really in custody. Do not use the callback number that the scammers give you.
In another variation on this scam, the phony relative says that their wallet was stolen, and they need some emergency money.