When a panicked member of Keystone United Methodist Federal Credit Union rushed into the credit union’s office on a recent Tuesday afternoon, staff members were quick to react.
The member told them he had received a call from his grandson who needed money immediately as bail to get out of jail on drug charges in Haiti. His grandson also told him not to tell anyone else in the family about this incident, but to wire the money to him right away.
The story immediately set off a warning for Darlene Jewett, KUMFCU customer service representative, who was the first person to talk to the member when he entered the credit union’s offices in the United Methodist Conference Center in Cranberry Township.
“He told me he had been praying and praying for guidance about what to do while he was driving to our office,” said Jewett. Suspecting that there was something fishy about the call, Jewett immediately consulted with other staff members.
“We asked him if he was sure that the voice on the phone was his grandson,” said Patti Columbe, CEO. “He thought it was, but wasn’t 100 percent sure.”
Armed with the knowledge that this is a common and increasingly popular form of telephone fraud, officially referred to as the “grandparent scam,” staff members promptly notified local FBI sources who verified that the call was an attempt to steal money from the member.
According to the FBI, the grandparent scam has been around since 2008, but with the increase in popularity of social networking sites and the availability of personal information on the internet, scam artists have become more sophisticated in their ruse.
“As a loving grandparent, this credit union member wanted to do everything in his power to help his grandson, and he panicked,” said Columbe. “I’m just so glad that our staff recognized a scam when they heard the story and reacted quickly to help him.”
For more information about this type of scam, visit http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2012/april/grandparent_040212.