"Grandpa, I'm in jail and I need a lot of help!" a caller told an 82-year-old Vancouver man this week.
In a new version of a scam that has targeted Clark County residents since 2008, the caller said he was in Canada to attend a funeral when a border officer found marijuana in the car's trunk. He needed $4,500 to bail himself out and come home.
He asked the Vancouver man not to tell his parents, because he was ashamed about being arrested.
"If you don't believe me, talk to the officer," the caller said.
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The Vancouver man, who lives near Orchards, talked to the "officer," too, but wasn't buying their pitch. He asked both men to give him their phone number, and they refused.
They wanted the elderly man to contact someone in his area and give up the $4,500, which the "grandson" said he'd pay back quickly.
"They finally got mad at me because I wouldn't go along, and hung up," the Vancouver man said Tuesday. He then called his real grandson and found he was home asleep.
He said the number on his caller ID had a 760 prefix, used in Southern California, not Canada.
Scammers can, by using special websites, for a fee, easily put any number they want on folks' caller ID devices. They also often use disposable cell phones that, after being tossed, are tough to trace, an officer in Canada has told The Columbian.
Several local residents who received calls from so-called grandson scammers have asked them a few simple questions, such as how tall they are, that unmasked them.
Typically, grandson scammers have asked folks to wire them the money by Western Union or MoneyGram. If they do, the cash is gone forever.
A good way to keep up with the myriad scams that local residents are being pelted with is by visiting http://scambusters.org, a regularly updated blog that's respected by police and has a wealth of information and warnings.
In the newest scambusters warning, a scam artist targeted a man who was moving and advertising some possessions for sale on Craigslist.
Someone posing as a buyer asked the man to click on a link to confirm what he would be buying. The man knew better than to click on a link that could be a trap, so he didn't.
But had he clicked on it, it would have taken him to a site where he'd be asked to download a "video," scambusters says.
"The download is really a piece of malware that, according to Internet security specialists Prevx, hijacks the PC and sends information back to the scammer," according to scambusters.
"It also takes over your Internet browser, changing the home page to one full of ads and a search box that, when you do a search, takes you to yet another stack of ads. In fact, it does seem to be just adware, but, theoretically, could be used for any malicious purpose, including information theft."
Whether it's high-tech, low-tech or no-tech, we're still living in a world of thieves.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.