Con artists are once again targeting Ozark Countians, especially those with grandchildren. The newest scam – or not so new for some folks – is known as the “granny scam” and involves a person calling claiming to be a grandchild who is in trouble.

This particular scam has been going around for a few years, but dispatcher Ken Burnett with the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department said he had recently received six complaints from residents saying they had gotten similar calls.

According to Burnett, the scammers called residents, claiming to be their grandchildren and saying they had been in an accident, had been arrested and needed bond money. “They were asking for $300 to $500,” said Burnett. “It’s not a huge amount, but just think if they got that from 10 people.”

Burnett said none of those who reported the calls to the sheriff’s office had sent in money, but he knows from the number  of complaints the sheriff’s office has received, that many more people have probably gotten similar phone calls. “We just don’t like seeing anyone being taken advantage of,” he said.

Across the nation, the scam has several variations but a similar theme: a person calls and pretends to be a grandchild needing emergency money because of being sick, arrested or in some other type of trouble, and they don’t want to call their parents. They often ask for their grandparent to wire money through MoneyGram or Western Union. And there is the danger: wiring money is like sending cash. There are no protections for the sender, and usually there is no way to reverse the transaction, trace the money or recover the funds from the thieves.

Those who receive these calls are instructed to verify all information and not unknowingly “fill in the blank” for the scammer. Many times the thief will say something like, “Hi, it’s your favorite grandchild,” and the grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the person most sounds like. Then the caller takes on that identity for the remainder of the call.

To avoid being scammed, residents are encouraged to stay calm, avoid acting out of a sense of urgency and, if they honestly think their grandchild is in trouble, verify with a third party that the caller is where they say they are. Never give out personal identifying information such as bank account or credit card numbers.

If you receive a phone call you suspect is a scam, call the Ozark County Sheriff’s Office at 679-4633 or the Missouri Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 1-800-392-8222.

By Regina Wynn Mozingo regina@ozarkcountytimes.com