HAYWARD — An attempted offshore phone scam was thwarted when the intended victim was tipped off that a call for help from a supposed grandchild was more devious than desperate, authorities said.
Police said the 80-year-old Hayward resident received a call last week from someone claiming to be his grandson, who supposedly had run into trouble with the law while on vacation in Canada.
"He said he needed money to bail out of jail," Lt. Chris Orrey said.
Through the call's bad reception, the scammer asked the man to send him $2,500 via a Western Union wire transfer. After ending the call, another man phoned, this one claiming to be a law enforcement official, bearing the same news.
But when the Hayward man went to send the money, the Western Union clerk warned him that there have been scams using methods along the same lines. When the intended victim checked with relatives, he found his grandson was safe and sound stateside.
"Different scams have been going on for a long while in different forms," said Stephen Gawlik, a spokesman for Western Union. "That one, with someone calling the elderly, is particularly pernicious, taking advantage of one of the more vulnerable segments of society. They think a loved one is in trouble and want to help, but it turns out their good deed is, in fact, preyed upon."
Gawlik said that while photo identification is required for recipients of a money transfer, scammers use fake IDs.
"The investigator asked him, 'What kind of scam are you running over there?' " Orrey said. "He responded, 'Not a very good one.' "
Orrey said it is difficult to go after such offshore criminals, and that the phones used in such scams often are not tied to a specific person.
"Typically, they block it somehow," she said.
She added that the vast distance is another roadblock to prosecution.
"We can try to get a court order issued against the suspect in the Dominican Republic," she said, "but we can't do much else from here."
Eric Kurhi covers Hayward. Contact him at 510-293-2473.