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Letter: Warning against the 'grandparent scam'

To the editor,

As a recent victim of the "grandparent scam," I wish to share my experience in the hopes that others may be spared.

I received a phone call and the voice on the other end said, "Grandma, this is your grandson." I replied, "You're not my grandson and you've got the wrong number." The voice replied, "But Grandma, I need help."

I should have hung up, but I continued to listen and therefore subjected myself to master manipulators who played on my emotions.

A scenario was laid out by a so-called lawyer, also on the phone, that my grandson had hit another car with passengers from Peru and he was in jail. The foreign family needed to get home right away and they couldn't wait for an insurance settlement. I was able to ask my "grandson" why he didn't sound like himself and the reply was that his mouth had been injured in the accident. But that was about the only question I was able to ask.

The "lawyer" wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise. He kept pressing, "You must send money. You must send the money now. You must use Moneygram to send the money. You must spell every word correctly in the address I'm giving you. You must keep this secret as your grandson wants to tell his parents himself when he is released from jail.

I began to believe these lies. I felt compelled to help my grandson. I did as they asked -- twice -- sending money two times in the same day. The second time, I was instructed to send the money from a different Moneygram location.

In hindsight, I felt as if I had been mind-controlled or hypnotized in some manner. In hindsight, all of the lies became terribly clear. I was programmed to do just as they said.

I do not know why I obeyed the request to keep this situation a secret; that is just how our family functions. My grandson would have called his parents first for assistance had he truly been in trouble. I do not know why I let myself worry all day about my grandson without checking on him. When I finally called his house that evening to see how he was, I discovered that he was just fine. There was no accident and it became obvious I had been scammed. I immediately called the police.

There is no hope of recovering the money, but I would consider the money well spent if my story helps someone else recognize this scam before they fall victim to it. If you receive a call like this, I would suggest getting off the phone as soon as possible before the scammers have a chance to take you in with their lies. Hang up on them and immediately call a trusted family member who can verify whether your loved one is safe. Do not heed any plea to keep this story a secret.

The Minnesota Attorney General's Office has an excellent brochure explaining the grandparent scam. It can be found at If you do not have access to the Internet, call the Attorney General's office at 651-296-3353 to request a copy. The brochure recommends that you verify the caller's identity. Perhaps ask a question that only your real grandchild would be able to answer. The brochure also recommends that you resist the pressure to act quickly.

Bank tellers are trained to be aware of people withdrawing money under duress. Listen to them if they try to help you. Moneygram forms carry warnings about possible scams. Unfortunately, I used a Moneygram phone. I do not remember hearing a warning on the phone, but in my "mind-controlled" state I might not have heeded the warning anyway.

I had experienced a feeling of foreboding in the days before I received that call. I later looked the word up, as it is not one I commonly use. The dictionary defines foreboding as "anticipation of evil." I certainly experienced evil actions and intent at the hand of the scammers. I do not know that these scammers will ever be caught, but I can pray that they will be convicted of the wrongness of their actions. I can pray that their hearts will be changed.

Please share my experience with your friends and family members. Obtain copies of the brochure to distribute. Help prevent others from falling under the scammers' spell.

Margaret Carney,