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Old phone scam targets new victims

By Kyle Benjamin, kbenjamin@wcyb.com
Published On: Jan 11 2014 07:27:16 AM CST
Updated On: Jan 09 2014 11:00:00 PM CST

Police say the 'Grandparents Scam' is making the rounds again and it has already left  one woman out nearly $1,700.

BRISTOL, Va -

Imagine getting a call from someone claiming to be a family member in big trouble. That family member needs money to get out of a third world jail and get home. Susan Vail said her mom did what any grandmother would do if one of her grandkids was in distress: help any way she could.

"I don't know how they do it, they sounded just like my daughter. They called my mother "Nana" just like my daughter does. It was very convincing," said Vail.  

The caller pretended she was the granddaughter of Vail's 84-year-old mother, claimed she was in a Dominican Republic jail following a car accident. The caller said she had gone down for a wedding, but had a drink, and got in the accident. The caller also claimed the DR has a "no tolerance" policy for drinking and driving, which is why she ended up in jail.
The caller then asked for almost $1700 for bail and a plane ticket back home.

"{My mom} has a little on reserve for emergencies, and that was it, " Vail said.

The caller was so convincing, Vail's mom used her small rainy day fund and wired the cash to the Dominican. However, Susan Vail's daughter was in Roanoke the whole time and never in any danger.

"{The caller} knew enough to call her 'Nana', Not 'Grandma.' Called her 'Nana'. So whoever this is, they've done their research," said Vail.

Bristol, Virginia Police detective Sergeant Steven Crawford told News 5 a small dose of skepticism can go a long way.

"If anybody ask for any money over the telephone. Do not give them anything. Reputable people will not ask that way," said Crawford.  "I don't care who they say they are. Don't give them anything. No bank account numbers, wire em any money. Don't do anything. Take everything as phony."

Sound advice going forward, but it won't help Vail's mom get her money back.

"Some individual down there has money that belongs to my mother," said Vail.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said versions of the "Grandparents Scam" have been around since 2008.