A Message from Sheriff Scott Israel


Crime as we know it is not a new phenomenon, but the types of crimes being committed are starting to change with the availability of new technology and easily accessible personal information. One such crime called the “Grandparent Scam” has resulted in the financial exploitation and victimization of many unsuspecting victims.

The scam involves instances where a person claiming to be a family member or close personal friend contacts the victim by phone or e-mail. The scammer fabricates a compelling story suggesting that he or she is in some type of trouble and needs immediate financial assistance. To help validate their story, the scammer is able to obtain personal information about the victim or the victim’s family through public data found on the internet or by hacking into the victim’s e-mail account.

Typically, the scammer will ask that you wire money immediately. Unfortunately, once the scam has been committed and money has been exchanged, there is very little that law enforcement can do because the perpetrator most often lives overseas. Even if you are wiring money to a location in the United States, the wire transfer immediately bounces to a location outside of the country.

A common scenario for this scam involves a loved-one being stranded while traveling outside of the country after their luggage or passport was stolen. And yet another common con tactic is when the scammer indicates a friend or family member has legal trouble or worse, is in the hospital and in desperate need of medical attention. These are only a few scenarios used by scammers, but detectives from the Broward Sheriff’s Office have heard many more.

As Sheriff of Broward County I am often asked, “What can I do to stop this?” The most important thing we all can do is pass this information along to our friends, family and co-workers so they are aware of this common scam and could be a potential target. If you are ever contacted by a friend or family member in trouble, follow these important steps before providing any financial assistance:

  • Stop and ask yourself if this person or family member would contact you in such a crisis.
  • Make contact with other relatives or friends to verify the status and whereabouts of the person contacting you.
  • Ask for a contact phone number and let them know you will call them back. If they refuse, it is most likely a scam.
  • If a loved-one claims they are in jail, ask for the location of the jail and call to confirm they are indeed incarcerated.
  • If you receive a call that your loved one is in the hospital and you are asked to provide financial information, verify the address of the hospital and then contact the hospital billing department.
  • Always question the validity of the call before you send money or provide financial information to anyone who calls or e-mails you about an emergency situation.
  • Plain and simple, trust your gut instinct. If something does not seem right or is out of the ordinary, it is most likely a con.

If you have been victimized by a similar scam, contact your local law enforcement agency to file a police report. Although this is a difficult crime to prosecute, law enforcement is tracking these criminals and their con artist crimes.

Again, the best and most effective way to combat this crime is to share this important information with your friends, family and co-workers. Educating the community about these cons is the first step in stopping these scammers in their tracks.

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