Scammers targeting grandparents

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by JESSE JONES / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on December 10, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 9 at 9:52 PM

Last week near the Missouri river in Great Falls, Montana, a call came in to the home of Donald and Marianne Ehnes. The person on the phone claimed to be their grandson Shaun.

"He says, 'I need your help. I'm in Montreal,'" Marianne recalled. "He said, 'I need your help.'"

The couple was told that Shaun was involved in a car crash and was arrested for DUI, and he needed money sent to Canada fast.

"I need $5,000 to get out , then judge will pardon me," Marianne was told.

Shaun was nowhere near Montreal. He was actually attending classes at the University of Washington.

Jesse Jones: "Have you been to Canada?"

Shaun Neubauer: "Not since I was young."

Attorney General Rob McKenna believes the fake call for help was all part of the grandson scam, which is basically scaring grandparents into sending money to a foreign country.

"This happens thousands of times each week in Washington state," McKenna said.

It's estimated that millions have been lost to this scam. The victims all scattered over the country, from coast to coast and border to border.

"These scammers have phone numbers of it seems every senior citizen in the country and they methodically work through the list looking for people to fall for it," he said.

Donald, an ex cop, was smart enough to call his grandson in Seattle to get the real deal.

"He knows better and he wouldn't take no crap, even if it was me in that situation, he wouldn't give me the money," Shaun said, "he'd make me work for it."

With Shaun's whereabouts confirmed, Don knew exactly what to say to the fraudsters when they called back.

"And I said, 'Shaun, you little s.o.b. I never liked you and I hope you rot in jail!' And I hung up the phone," he said.

Canadian authorities shut down a multi-million dollar grandson scam operation in March. Of the 1000 people who filed complaints in that case, 80 percent sent the cash. Investigators say scammers are mining information on social networking sites like Facebook before calling grandparents.

So if this happens to you, don't send any money. Call others in your family and get the real story before doing anything.

For consumer concerns, e-mail Jesse to getjesse@king5.com or call toll-free 877-51-JESSE. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/GetJesse.

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