November 20, 2020

"This is an urgent message about your grandchild. I'm their lawyer. They've been involved in an accident and arrested for reckless driving. They need $10,000 to pay their bail so that they don't have to stay in jail for six months."

Legit? No, this is fraud, and it's costing our older citizens thousands of dollars. While we have had three recent cases here in Baltimore County, these scams are happening in other areas of the country, too.

In September scammers obtained large sums of money through fraudulent means similar to the one described above in six different jurisdictions in Missouri, and in Virginia in October. The three Baltimore County incidents all occurred this week; one in Catonsville on Monday, November 16, another in Timonium on Tuesday, November 17, and the third case yesterday morning in Towson. In addition, cases have also been reported in Anne Arundel County and Frederick County. These scams were all very similar in nature.

While some scammers generically claim to be a relative in need of cash, other telephone scams may actually use the name of a victim's relative, making the scam appear to be legitimate. Don't be fooled. Believe it or not, there are so many different information "look-up" sites on the internet that it is fairly easy to obtain personal information like names, phone numbers, and addresses of relatives to aid them in their ruse.

Part of these scams is creating a sense of fear and urgency so that the victim doesn't have time to think things through and recognize the scam. Your loved one NEEDS MONEY NOW! Or else...they'll be arrested, held in jail, sued and lose everything, or some other frightening consequence.

These particular scams also involve effort on the part of the scammer to isolate the victim, and in effect, keep anyone who may be more knowledgeable about scams from alerting the victim to the deception. The suspects may advise the victim that they can't talk to anyone because there is a gag order in place, or advise them to give false information to anyone who asks questions.

In all of these cases the victim has been instructed to provide cash and that a courier would respond to their residence to pick up the money. The suspect has, in fact, driven to the victim's residence and taken possession of the cash in many of these cases.  

With three reported cases this week, detectives fear that there may be other victims of this crime in Baltimore County who have not reported the incident out of fear or embarrassment. We want you to know that you should not feel ashamed if you have been the victim of a fraud. It's not your fault; it's the criminal's fault. It's important to know that if you receive a questionable phone call and you are unsure of its legitimacy, you can call your local police precinct and speak to an officer about it over the phone. Our officers are available to help you determine whether or not the call or the described circumstances are legitimate.

The best chance detectives have at stopping these criminals from victimizing anyone else is with information. If you or someone you know has had an experience similar to those described here, please call the Baltimore County Police non-emergency line and report the incident at 410-887-2222 or dial 911 for an immediate response to an in-progress crime.

We all have a responsibility to our relatives and friends to spread the word on telephone scams and educate those around us to the ruses used by these scammers. Don't fall victim to these financial crimes, and don't allow those you care about to be victimized - protect them by educating them.

Additional resources for information about common scams or to report a scam can be found on the Federal Trade Commission or Better Business Bureau websites. For other information on how to keep yourself and your possessions safe, check out the Baltimore County Police Safety Tips and Guidelines page.