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Watch out for ‘granny scam,’ Watsonville resident warns

Modified: Friday, Feb 8th, 2013

WATSONVILLE — Watsonville resident Betty Radonich, 70, was fooled by a phone scammer three years ago, but vows she will never let it happen again.

She said she got a call from a young man claiming to be her grandson, who said he was in Canada and had been arrested after a car crash.

The man said he was in jail, and needed $3,700 to get bailed out.

To make the story more credible, the scammer put another man on claiming to be a lawyer. The man knew the name of her grandson.

An Internet search of the lawyer’s name revealed that he was out of a legitimate office in Canada. That further led her to believe the story was true.

Radonich tried to call her grandson and several other family members, none of whom answered their phones.

She quickly followed the caller’s instruction and wired the money, but when she called the lawyer’s Canada office, she was told he was on vacation.

Radonich said Wednesday that she has been targeted four times since then, likely because her initial trustfulness of the scam artist put her name on a list.

According to Santa Cruz County Consumer Affairs coordinator Robin Gysin, anyone getting a similar call should take time to check the story.

Gysin said many scammers claiming to be family members will try to persuade the victims to quickly wire the money, and even to keep it a secret from the rest of the family.

“It’s unlikely your grandkids are going to call you and tell you they are in trouble, but it’s possible,” she said. “So do some simple checking.”

More importantly, Gysin said, is to immediately recognize calls like this as scams.

“Anytime someone asks you to wire money to them, it’s a scam,” she said. “It’s cash, and it usually can’t be traced there is usually no way to get it back.”

Furthermore, scam artists often have an answer ready for any argument, so the best policy is to hang up.

“Don’t engage with them,” she said.

Finally, anyone getting frequent calls might consider changing their phone number, Gysin said.

“I’ve talked to people who are afraid to answer their phone because these people can be so nasty,” she said.

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