“Grandpa, it’s me Rence – I have been arrested, my lawyer needs to speak with you”
My family was recently targeted as part of a scam. Let me explain.
For a month period, I was receiving phone calls from various US area codes about “my upcoming move to Illinois”. The caller would call and ask for “Alex” or leave a voicemail for “Alex”. These calls would happen every day, which resulted in me getting quite frustrated and saying multiple times “My name is Rence, I don’t know where you got my number but stop calling and tell whoever provides you with leads that this is wrong”. Lesson one – never give someone you do not know calling from a random number any information.
I am sitting in a meeting with my colleague Dillon O’Hara at the Hamden ATP Alarms office when I get a missed call from my grandfather’s cell phone. My grandfather is very old school, one of four boys (Bruno, Aldo, Reno, and John) of Italian immigrants who grew up in the tile trade. He still goes grocery shopping daily, golfs, smokes cigars, and enjoys the occasional Rob Roy.
My grandfather never calls me from his cell phone so I decided to step outside and call him back immediately.
“Rence, are you out of jail?”
“No, Grandpa, I am still in here haha”
As they should, my grandparents often give me a hard time for not visiting enough. Additionally, my grandpa is still one of the guys and likes to joke around so I figured I should dish it back.
“Okay, well I just put the money in the mail.” (don’t worry, we got it back with the help of FedEx)
“Wait, what did you do?”
My grandfather received a phone call that morning from someone identifying himself as his grandson Rence (not Larry or Lawrence) and he swears that it was my voice. He then spoke with someone identifying themselves as an attorney saying that I had been arrested and in need of bail money. The attorney went onto explain that there was a gag order on the case and that he could not discuss it with anyone.
I found this scam particularly elaborate for three reasons:
The day after this happened, the phone calls from the moving companies stopped. (There is no doubt in my mind that I gave them the information they needed to con my grandfather.)
Whomever was on the other side of the phone identified himself as “Rence” – not a very common name.
Both my grandparents (my grandma answered the phone and gave it to my grandfather) said it sounded just like me.
If you happen to get a phone call from someone saying that someone you care about is in need, ask a clarifying question. Here are some examples:
- What is your dog’s name?
- What color eyes do you have?
- Where was your mother born?
Here are some other pieces of advice:
- If someone wants you to mail cash, which should immediately raise a red flag and is almost NEVER done, Google the address. If it is a vacant home or business, you should immediately become even more suspicious (the address these scammers provided was a vacant house).
- Google the area code of the phone number. If it is international, the Police cannot easily trace the number (these con-artists were calling from a Montreal number).
- If a “lawyer” calls you on behalf, ask for their main line. Most lawyers have a gatekeeper, whether it’s a secretary, answering service, or paralegal. If the same person picks up immediately every-time you call, it should raise a red flag.
I would like to thank the Hamden PD, who were extremely responsive and treated my grandparents with the utmost respect and compassion.
Please share this story with your friends, families, and peers. My grandfather is extremely present and smart; however, his unfamiliarity with technology and what can be found on the internet led to a lapse in judgement. However, now I know if I ever need bail money, my grandpa is one call away!
Have a great day!