Scammers, using a variation of the “Family Impersonation Scam,” also known as the “Grandparents Scam,” have been preying on people with friends on Maui.
AARP Hawaii has learned of recent incidents of a caller claiming to be an Emergency Medical Technician telling potential victims that a friend had been in an accident on Maui. The “paramedic” put an angry “dad” on the phone while he tended to the wounded. The “dad” demanded money to pay for medical bills for his son, who had been injured in the accident.
Judy Edwards, a Big Island resident who recently moved from Maui, said she got the call this morning at work, but was able to recognize it as a scam. The caller had a local accent and sounded like he was from Hawaii, she said.
“The “dad” got on the phone and started screaming at me that he has my friend’s phone and that’s why he has my number and he doesn’t want the cops because his kid has a warrant out, and if I don’t promise him to pay his kid’s doctor bills he will take my friend and her phone and drop her in a ditch and I will never see her again,” Edwards said. “’Just try me,’” the caller said. “Hurry up or your friend is dead.”
When Edwards called Maui Police, she said the officer told her that five other people had called about a similar scam.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network recommends that if you get a call about a relative or friend in danger and the caller asks for cash, you should pause, calm yourself, say you need to consult with someone, and hang up. Check to see if there is a real emergency and if it is real, you can respond appropriately. If not, you’ve avoided being scammed.
Complaints can be filed with the Federal Trade Commission and local authorities. You can also call the AARP Fraud Watch network Helpline at 1-877-908-3360 to share your story and receive assistance.
The FTC says scammers can buy personal information about people. Personal information about friends, relatives and where you live is also available on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Scammers hack accounts and look for targets on those networks.
The recent 2016 BBB Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report said people 65 and older were mostly likely to be targeted for family imposter scams, but are actually less likely to be fooled than younger people. However, when they are scammed, they lose the most money.