SCAM ALERT: Man pretending to be “public defender” preying on grandparents

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EFFINGHAM – Effingham Police say they have received multiple reports from citizens receiving early morning calls about their “grandson” being in trouble for drinking and driving.

Chief Jeffrey Fuesting says, a man, identifying himself as a “public defender” explains that the recipient’s “grandson” was out drinking with a friend and was involved in an accident the night before, resulting in their arrests for felony DUI and Reckless Endangerment. The caller then says the judge will be lenient and reduce the charges, only if the damage is paid for immediately. Police say, the caller uses the actual name of the recipient’s grandson, making it sound legitimate.

Those who reported these calls to Effingham Police say the caller adds, “The judge realized they are two good boys who just made a mistake.”

The caller then reportedly gives the scam victim instructions to get a Money Order from Walmart and ship it to an out-of-state address. Chief Fuesting says not to fall for this and never money to an unverified source.

Chief Fuesting says, in one of the reports filed Monday morning, the victim asked to speak to his grandson, and the phone was handed to another man, posing as the victim’s grandson. That man pretended to be very distraught and thanked his “grandpa” over and over. When asked specific questions, which would have confirmed his identity, the “grandson” said he had to go and someone could be reportedly heard in the background yelling, “Your time is up!”

According to the FBI, this so-called “grandparent scam” first appeared in 2008 and continues to become more sophisticated as perpetrators can easily glean personal information from Facebook and other forms of social media.

Police say, many grandparents have noticed that the “grandson,” who identifies himself by the grandson’s first name, also sounded exactly like their grandson. Chief Fuesting explains that this is likely why scam calls come early in the morning or late at night, as people are likely to be tired and more vulnerable to believing these calls.

These scams ask the grandparents to quickly wire several thousand dollars to a foreign country, or in the cases reported Monday, to send Money Orders to addresses in other states.

Chief Fuesting is encouraging citizens to be vigilant and check any story out thoroughly to avoid falling prey to scams by acting on them immediately. He suggests trying to contact the grandchild directly to verify that they are okay. If that is not possible, he says the recipient should do a directory search to locate a number for the jail the grandson is being supposedly held in and contact them directly.

As always, if you are the victim of this scam or any others, contact your local law enforcement agency to report the crime.

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