Lafourche sheriff warns against 'grandparent scam,' utility scam

Updated: Sep. 15, 2017 at 3:40 PM CDT
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(WVUE) - Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre is reminding residents to familiarize themselves with signs of phone scams. He said there have been reports of two specific scams recently, including a scam involving a utility company and another known as the "grandparent scam."

Entergy Louisiana recently released information about an ongoing scam in which utility customers receive calls from people threatening to disconnect services if an immediate payment is not paid on a past-due bill. The victim is then directed to transfer funds electronically or through prepaid debit cards. The scammers often use technology to replicate the utility company's name and number on a caller I.D., making the scam difficult to spot.

The "grandparent scam" occurs when a scammer contacts an elderly victim pretending to be a grandchild who is in jail or in distress. The caller sounds upset and may say they have a cold if their voice is not recognized. The caller typically states they have only a few moments to talk and may even provide a detailed story which ends with them being arrested. They may ask for bail money to be wired to an account, or they may request that a store gift card be purchased. If the caller is able to get money or gift cards from the first attempt, they will often contact the victim repeatedly seeking more. In some cases, the potential victim may also speak to, or receive a separate call from, someone claiming to be a law enforcement officer, a U.S. official or an attorney confirming the story or asking for additional funds, Webre said.

"These scams have become elaborate in recent years with the advent of social media," said Webre. "We've seen multiple cases wherein the con artist refers to a grandparent by a nickname after finding a photo on social media. This shows the lengths these scammers are willing to go to take advantage of you."

Here are some ways to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Hang up the phone immediately. Do not attempt to engage the caller or threaten them.
  • Block the number. If receiving the call on a mobile phone, you can block an individual number to prevent repeat calls.
  • Download a smartphone app which helps identify scam or “spam” calls.
  • Verify the source of the call. Ask for information from the caller such as the caller’s name and the company. Then search for the company on the Internet or in a phone book and find a contact number or email address. You can also call 4-1-1 to find a local number. If you believe the caller truly is a family member in distress, try calling that family member’s phone.

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