One of the more deceitful scams I've read and written about is the "Grandparent Scam."
It's a popular one among con artists involving a fake phone call placed to grandma or grandpa with the person on the other end claiming to be little Timmy who's found himself in trouble with the law, doesn't want mom or dad to find out and needs some financial help.
The caller is almost always difficult to hear, panicked and begging for assistance, creating a scenario just believable enough to get their victim to think their grandchild really is in trouble.
It's a scam that's been going on for a long time and one that I address whenever I speak to groups about my column.
Usually I warn those of grandparent age to be on the lookout for calls like these, but now it seems as though a similar type of scam is targeting people of all ages.
Acting in the same vein as the "Grandparent Scam," fraudsters are now perpetrating what the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department is calling "Kidnapping Extortion Scams."
In an advisory alert put out earlier this week, the Sheriff's Department warned the public of the telephone kidnapping scam that's cropping up in the area.
"In a typical scenario, people receive a phone call from a person who says a family member is being held hostage and the caller vows to hurt or kill the hostage unless the caller's demands are met," the advisory reads.
Family members are ordered to get money or valuable personal items and the caller then gives them a designated drop-off location or tells them to send the money via wire transfer, all while warning them against trying to contact the "kidnapped" relative.
According to the Sheriff's Department, there are plenty of warning signs to look out for with this particular scam, including the call coming from a non-local area codes such as 775 or 664, or even from outside the United States.
Residents are advised to ask to speak to the kidnap victim and to "listen carefully" to verify whether or not it's the family member in question.
The Sheriff's Department also warns against sending any money or providing any personal or financial information to a stranger over the phone, including names of family members or phone numbers. If you do get a call like this, you should contact your local law enforcement agency or call 911 immediately to report it.
Much like the "Grandparent Scam," these "Kidnapping Extortion Scams" operate on fear and confusion. Contacting authorities, or even other family members who would know the whereabouts of the person in question, is always a smart move.
For more information, contact the Sheriff's Department's Public Affairs Division at 909-387-3700.