BBB warns elderly about grandparents scheme

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PITTSBURGH —

The scheme begins with a deceptive call to a grandparent from someone claiming to be their grandchild, but the caller is really a con artist after their money. Investigator Robin Taylor found out why this old scheme is triggering a new alert.

The Better Business Bureau is concerned because this scheme is actively being played out in western Pennsylvania. I've also been getting calls about it.

The con artists' goal is to scare loving grandparents into sending them money.

"This young man, I thought was my grandson. He sounded just like him," said Bonnie Rozik, 70, of Webster, Pa.

When Rozik answered the phone, a man claiming to be her grandson Mitchell told her he was at a friend's wedding in Peru when he got in trouble.

"He said,  'Well, I spent last night in jail.' He said, 'I had an accident with a rent-a-car and I broke my nose,'" said Rozik.

The caller said he needed $1,700 to pay for the damage, and if she didn't wire the money right away, he'd miss his flight home.

"I said, 'Well, Mitchell, I don't have that kind of money that I can get my hands on right at this moment,'" said Rozik, panicking. Instead of wiring the money, she called Mitchell's parents.

"So I call my daughter, a nervous wreck, the whole nine yards," said Rozik.

That's when she found out Mitchell wasn't in Peru, he was safe at college. If she had wired the money, it would have been gone.

"Often times this is done through a wire transfer and they lose their money. There's not much that can be done. It's much like a cash transaction," said Caitlin Vancas, a spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau.

The BBB warns that con artists often use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to find out about their victim's grandchildren.

Rozik was convinced her grandson really was in trouble because the caller knew so much about him.

"It wasn't fun, let me put it to you that way," said Rozik.

If you get a call like this, the first thing you need to do is check with your family to see if your loved one is OK. Give them a call. Find out if they're really traveling overseas, or if they're safe at home or school.

And remember, never wire money to a stranger.