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NPPD Crime Prevention Tip:

Avoiding Phone Scams


Like many Police Departments in New Jersey and across the nation, the North Plainfield Police Department has received multiple reports from borough residents of a relatively new scam in recent months.  Typically a senior citizen will receive a call from a young man or woman claiming to be their grandchild in desperate need of money.   Various stories are told of being under arrest and needing bail money; of losing all identification and needing money to purchase airline tickets home from a foreign country; or even needing financial assistance for an emergency medical procedure. Another variation is for the caller to say they are a friend or roommate of the grandchild making the call because the grandchild is hospitalized or incarcerated.   

These calls usually originate out of the country, often in Canada or the Caribbean.  This makes it extremely difficult to investigate and prosecute these incidents.  With so much information publicly available on the internet, determined criminals with time are able to mine data.  Finding a senior’s phone number with a college or high school aged grandchild can be done on the internet in a relatively short amount of time.  The call is made and the money is requested by electronic bank transfer, Western Union style transfer, or a variety of other ways manipulated by the criminal. 

As hard to believe as this may sound, this scam has been used successfully by criminals to get money from unsuspecting victims on numerous occasions.   The best defense to this scam is to terminate the phone call, hang up, and not to engage the suspect in any further conversation.

Another step to prevent becoming a victim is to establish a private password known amongst family members.  For example, if you have a grandchild studying abroad for a semester, give them a private password to always use at the beginning of any telephone conversation with them while overseas.  College websites and on-line newsletters often have articles on students studying abroad often naming their hometowns, giving criminals a ready resource of potential victims.  If the caller does not use the password assume it is not your family member.  If you believe you have been victimized in this manner contact your local law enforcement agency.