Elderly residents are targeted by a telephone scammer pretending to be a male relative, usually a grandson. Scammers sometimes locate their elderly victims using a phone book to look for people with older sounding names (e.g. Ethel, Henry). The caller may bait the victim into saying the name of an actual relative by pretending that there is a bad telephone connection. Once the scammer has obtained the name of a relative they will claim to have been arrested on a minor charge in another country (usually Canada or Mexico). The scammer will then ask the prospective victim to send bond money via Western Union or other similar service. The well-intentioned relative then goes to a local branch and wires the requested money, usually several thousand dollars, which can be picked up by the scammer anywhere in the world. Once the money is picked up by the scammer it is nearly impossible to trace.
What to do:
Do get the full name of the relative supposedly in custody, the name of the law enforcement agency, the name or badge number of the arresting officer, and the criminal charge(s) the relative is being held on. Any legitimate police agency will release this information. Upon asking these questions, the caller may hang up or pretend not to hear you because of a bad connection.
Do not call the phone number given by the caller to verify whether it is a real call.
Do look up the agency phone number online or call the Darien Police Department. Our dispatch can confirm whether your relative has truly been arrested abroad.
Do not under any circumstances wire money, provide a credit card number, or give electronic access to your checking account! Here at the Darien Police Department, we only take cash or surety bonds. This is standard procedure in other countries like Canada.
Do consider having your name removed from the phone book.