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'Grandchild in jail' and other scams target local residents

• Updated Jan 22, 2019 at 9:30 AM

NOTE: The following “Local Voices” column was written by Huron County Sheriff Todd Corbin, Sandusky County Sheriff Chris Hilton, Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Levorchick, and Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth.


We hope everyone experienced a safe and enjoyable holiday season. Going forward, the men and women of our agencies will continue to work hard to serve you — our constituents — in our best attempt to keep you safe and to prevent you from being taken advantage of by criminals.

There are numerous telephone scams ongoing in our area carried out for no other reason than to extort money from you. We wanted to again take this opportunity to review with you some steps you can take in an attempt to prevent yourselves from becoming the victim of this type of criminal act.

One of the most common scams involves extremely aggressive verbal tactics — in many instances through the use of profanity — as the caller attempts to convince the intended victim (you) that he represents a governmental agency or a law enforcement agency (i.e.: the Internal Revenue Service or your local sheriff’s office). The common theme is that you owe the IRS money for back taxes and if you do not pay as instructed by the caller, “the sheriff” will arrest the intended victim. The caller will then attempt to convince you to obtain gift cards that they will need the numbers from, or to forward the caller funds through wire transfers or in a number of other different methods. None of the caller’s statements are true, and we ask if you receive such a call you do not engage in any conversation with the caller and hang up the phone immediately.

For clarification purposes, we would like to point out that the Internal Revenue Service, along with other federal agencies that may be mentioned by the caller, do not demand any payment for money allegedly owed to them over the telephone and they would not use the tactics that the callers use. In addition, it would be very rare that an arrest warrant would be issued — even if you did owe the IRS money due to unpaid taxes. Also, be aware that these types of calls are commonly “spoofed” by the caller so that the phone number that appears on your caller ID may be the actual phone number for your local sheriff’s office. Again, please do not speak with the caller and hang up the phone immediately. Callers committing these types of scams will try to keep you on the phone to continue to use their high-pressure, aggressive tactics in an attempt to overcome any misgivings you may have about sending the money as requested.

Also, please understand that these calls generally originate from outside of the United States and so the odds of anyone being prosecuted for committing or attempting to commit these crimes are very, very low.

Another common scam that periodically surfaces and, despicably, targets the elderly is the “grandchild in jail” scam. The elderly intended victim will receive a phone call — in many instances being awakened in the middle of the night to create even more confusion — from an individual who eventually is able to convince the intended victim that the caller is the intended victim’s grandchild. The intended victim is then convinced that the “grandchild” is incarcerated in jail and needs “bail money.” The “grandchild” is then able to convince the intended victim that the “grandchild” is extremely embarrassed due to being arrested and does not wish to tell the “grandchild’s” parents. The intended victim, trying to the right thing for their “grandchild” then provides a credit card number or forwards other type(s) of payment for the “bail” needed by the “grandchild.” By the time the victim speaks again with the actual grandchild and realizes that a scam has been committed, the money is long gone.

As a reminder, arrest records and records of persons incarcerated in jails throughout Ohio are public records. In the event that you would receive a call such as this and you would be concerned that your grandchild could be in jail, merely find out the name of the jail and hang up the telephone. Before you send any funds anywhere, to anyone, independently verify through public information that the grandchild in question is actually incarcerated. In all likelihood, you will find that they are not actually incarcerated and are not in any need of “telephone bail.”

We have collectively seen many individuals successfully victimized by such scams over the past several years, and the financial loss to these victims—many of whom could least afford the loss—is truly heartbreaking.

We would be glad to speak with you personally if you believe that we can assist you with these, or any other, issue of importance to you.

Finally, best wishes are extended to all for a safe and prosperous 2019!


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