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'Grandparent Scam' Strikes Wyckoff Couple

Township residents lost $15,000 and are the latest victims in a string of phone scams targeting senior citizens

A pair of elderly Wyckoff residents are the latest victims to lose thousands of dollars in a string of cruel phone scams that have been reported across Bergen County, according to local authorities. 

The couple in their 70s received a call from someone pretending to be their son on Friday, Sept. 21, according to police.

The caller told the couple he had been charged with driving while intoxicated and broke his nose in a car accident in New York City, according to Wyckoff Police. He told the couple that his voice sounded different because of his injury. 

The couple's "son" then handed the phone off to a man who he claimed was his lawyer.

The "lawyer" told the couple that their son had been charged with numerous charges and that he needed $15,000 to cover part of his $150,000 bail. The couple was provided with information on how to wire the money to a location in Georgia. After the $15,000 was wired, the “lawyer” called the couple again to advise that the money was received, and even pretended to discuss a legal strategy for their son, Wyckoff Police said. 

The entire incident was a scam, and when the couple later spoke with their actual son they learned that he had never been arrested.

"The people calling are good at what they do," said Wyckoff Police Chief Benjamin Fox. "They are often professional con artists. They have the ability to pull you in and get you to believe what they are saying." 

Despite the warnings that periodically go out regarding these scams, they always seem to find another victim, said Fox. 

"This is a lot of money and I feel terrible for this couple," said Fox. "My best advice is this: never, never, never, ever wire money someplace when you get an unsolicited phone call from someone. No matter what the story is." 

Fox said that the scam artists often play with the victims' emotions in order to force them to act quickly. He urges anyone receiving such a call to check with police and family members first. 

Similar incidents have been reported across Bergen County.

An 86-year-old Glen Rock resident was bilked by a "grandparent scam" for of $90,000 earlier this month. Authorities there say a person of interest in Los Angeles was apprehended and they think half the money might be recovered.

Just days later another Glen Rock resident received a phone call by a man claiming to be his grandson. The caller said he had been involved in a DWI accident in Los Angeles and was being held on a high amount of bail. He requested the borough senior wire him $100,000. The resident complied, but the victim, who is in his 80s, did not lose any money. The bank deemed the wire transfer to be suspicious and froze the cash.

In Mahwah several residents reported to police calls from people claiming to be their grandchildren in trouble and in need of money. Unlike a majority of recent cases, one resident who fell for the scam and wired more than $100,000 to a Western Union in Mexico might be getting some of that cash back. After an investigation into the fraud calls, Mahwah police were able to freeze $85,000 of the grandpa's money after he notified police. 

Both Mahwah Police and Fox said that the return of money following these types of cases is extremely rare.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Joseph M. Gerace at Joseph.Gerace@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Marc Phillips September 26, 2012 at 05:24 PM
The first red flag should have been wiring money to Georgia if the accident occurred in the tri-state area.
Marjorie Korteweg September 26, 2012 at 07:14 PM
I would like to receive Wyckoff and Mahwah Patch in my email. Can you please set this up for me? Thanks. Marjorie Korteweg mskeg@aol.com 201-218-0367
Joseph M. Gerace September 28, 2012 at 04:34 AM
Marjorie, I set up both email subscriptions. You should be receiving them. Email me at joseph.gerace@patch.com if you need any help.
Iris September 28, 2012 at 10:42 PM
How do the scammers know who is a Grandparent? I feel any suggestions from you would be helpful. Thank you

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