Last week the Cranbury Township Police Department received two reports of similar crimes targeting elderly victims said Chief Rickey A. Varga.
The scammers impersonated their victims’ family members and made urgent pleas for immediate financial assistance.
“We’ve never had two incidents in a week with a considerable amount of money for each incident,” Varga said.
The first incident occurred on Oct. 9, at approximately 10 a.m., when a 73-year-old female resident of Labaw Drive reported she received a call from an individual believed to be her son-in-law.
According to Varga, the actor claimed he was arrested in Mexico and had a window of two hours to be wired money so he could post bail. The actor further told the victim there was a gag order in place and that she was not to speak a word of this to anyone.
Varga said such stipulations give the actor time to comfortably obtain the monies.
The scammer instructed his victim to withdraw $5,604.90 from the bank, proceed to Wal-Mart, and complete a MoneyGram transaction to forward the monies to the actor, which she did.
Similarly, on Oct. 16, an 84-year-old male resident of South Main Street reported he received a call from an individual claiming to be his grandson.
According to Varga, the actor stated that he was “in trouble” in Texas and needed the victim to send him money. The scammer further stated that he didn’t want “mom and dad” to know yet and to please not tell them.
Varga said, again in this incident, the monies were transferred through MoneyGram, this time in the amount of $2,500.
In both cases the suspects had enough information to adequately misrepresent their identities and cause the victims to believe they were who they pretended to be, Varga said. He added it is likely this information was gathered through the internet.
According to Varga, the actors in both scams were said to be quite convincing, at times crying in an effort to avoid engaging in detailed conversations with their victims.
Such schemes are designed to play off of people’s emotions and strong desire to help loved ones in need.
Varga said that while there doesn’t appear to be any connection between the victims, the police department believes the crimes are related. He said the similarities between the suspects’ claims are a major indication.
Varga said before these two incidents, he hasn’t seen a similar scheme in Cranbury in a few years.
“So we’re a little concerned,” he said.
Cranbury police are asking police departments from area municipalities if they have received similar complaints.
Varga urges residents to be aware of these actors preying primarily on the elderly.
Should residents receive any such phone calls, they should call their relatives and confirm the requests. Varga also advises against sending money to unknown locations through MoneyGram.
Should residents believe they are being targeted in such a scheme, Varga said they should immediately call the police.
“We certainly want to make everybody aware of it to immediately call us if there are any suspicious requests like that,” Varga said.