“Friend Stranded” Scam Still Going

The phone or email scam, in which a scammer claims that a friend or relative is stranded in a foreign country, is still out there. Here is a first-person account by a grandmother in northeastern U.S.:

“On Thursday morning, I got a call which I thought was (grandson) — although I said to the voice on the other line ‘This doesn’t sound like (grandson).’

They gave a plausible excuse and I went on from there.

“The voice said they were in jail in Canada and it involved drugs found in their car. They wanted me to send two wires of $5,500 each from Western Union — one in KMart and the other in the Weis store. It was money he needed to get out of Canada and bail money. It was to be sent by Friday morning and I wasn’t to tell anyone because if word got out, (grandson) would have a drug record.

“This contact in Canada was a Sergeant Banyon. He gave me his telephone number and I was given my instructions.

“The so-called sergeant instructed me how I was to get the money out of the bank and if they questioned me about that I was to say it was to buy a car!!!

“This money was to be sent to Miami to a foreign named person. Also, I was to add $600 for wiring.

“Fortunately (son#3 – grandson’s uncle) walked in at that moment and I just couldn’t stand another minute and begged him not to tell anyone about this or (grandson) would suffer. Well, (son#3) called (grandson’s father) and then the ‘you know what’ hit the fan. He was working in northern Pennsylvania. He did take time to tell his company or boss or someone in charge what was going on and they had two company people ready to fly to Canada.

“(Other grandson) said ‘Why don’t you call (grandson’s) cell phone’ — which they did and (grandson) was in class at (college.)

“All the red flags were in place and when they presented the demand that you do this, or ‘this’ will happen, every sane thought drains from your brain. In addition to everything else, I don’t know how I’d have gotten to the bank since I felt too bad to drive and I surely couldn’t have walked.

“At any rate, (grandson’s father) got a chance to curse this caller back with words I can’t repeat. There’s lots more side stories to this, but I think I’ve aged 10 years — which at this point in my life I don’t need.”

Tom Kelchner is Research Center Manager at Sunbelt Software. Tom is a communications professional with extensive background in computer security, anti-virus application testing and computer virus analysis. He is a former daily newspaper reporter and deputy press secretary to governor of Pennsylvania.