Danvers Police warn of 'Grandparent Scam,' other common scams

Although the number of scams reported in town has shown a decline, police continue to warn residents of common scams targeting Danvers residents.

The phone rings and the number looks familiar, so you answer the call. 

The voice sounds familiar — the person on the other end claims to be a family member in trouble, and he or she asks you to send money to get them out of a sticky situation.

It may sound convincing, but Danvers Police want you to know it’s likely a scam.

At least one Danvers resident was recently the target of such a scam, police say. The resident picked up the phone to hear the voice of someone who sounded like their grandchild; the person claimed to be in legal trouble and required money to get out of jail or to assure a lawyer could help them.

Unconvinced, the resident hung up the phone and reported it to police.

“They recognized that it couldn’t have been their grandchild,” said Danvers Police Chief Patrick Ambrose. “But unfortunately, it doesn’t always come out that way. Sometimes, they lose a lot of money before they realize they’re in the middle of a scam.”

This scam, reported on Dec. 30, was identified by police as a “Grandparent Scam,” also known as the “Bail Bond Scam.”

In 2016, Danvers Police received 53 reported scams or attempted scams, according to the 2016 Annual Report. Ambrose said preliminary reports indicate there were 35 reported scams — completed or attempted — in 2017.

He said the decline in reports from one year to the next is possibly due to greater awareness of the scams. Fewer people than before are falling for them and then reporting them. 

In other words, it doesn’t necessarily mean fewer scams are taking place in Danvers.

Other common scams listed in the report include the IRS scam, the utility scam, the kidnapping/ransom scam, sweepstakes/lottery scam, tech support scam, or the Internet sale/online job scam.

In November, another Danvers resident was the target of a different type of scam. In that case, the resident received a letter claiming the sender knew a secret about him.

In exchange for not revealing the supposed secret to his wife, the scammer requested 2,500 Bitcoin — or the equivalent of about $24.2 million.

Bitcoin is an electronic peer-to-peer cash system that uses a completely digital form of money, according to Bitcoin.com.

In 2016, the latest data available, the Federal Trade Commission received 3.1 million consumer complaints, according to the FTC. Imposter scam complaints, which includes the Grandparent Scam, surpassed identity theft complaints for the first time as the second most common category of consumer complaints received by the FTC.

“It’s not just here, it’s everywhere,” Ambrose said. “The scams are a very big problem in general. We’ve had everything from the lottery scam … to this Grandparent Scam.”

He said the department wants residents to be aware of any new ones they come across.

“I would — with any of these schemes — check. Check twice,” Ambrose said. “Ask for an opinion of a relative or close friend, or contact the police if you’re not sure. Hopefully, we’ll know about some of the common ones going on, and we can stop you before sending any money out.”

Unfortunately, he said, once the money has been sent, it’s almost impossible to get back.

And in these scam cases, it’s difficult to do any further investigation.

“There’s really nothing to follow up on,” Ambrose said. “We can’t tap the phone lines or trace the phone call. We don’t have an actual person who made [the call].”

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