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Police warn local residents about scam operation

POLK COUNTY -- Law enforcement officials are cautioning residents about phone scammers posing as relatives and seeking bail money.

POLK COUNTY -- Law enforcement officials are cautioning residents about phone scammers posing as relatives and seeking bail money.

Monmouth Police Department received a complaint last week from an elderly citizen who was contacted by somebody claiming to be her grandson.

The scam artist said he was involved in a car crash in the Dominican Republic and quickly needed $2,500 wired to him to get out of jail. The caller knew the grandson's name and other personal information. The woman didn't send the money.

The relative-in-an-emergency or "Grandparent" scam has been around since at least 2008, but the variations of it are now more sophisticated because of Facebook and social media, according to the FBI website.

"It's pretty easy now to connect a name to somebody else," said Monmouth Sgt. Kim Dorn. "The best thing you can do is not give out information to people you don't know."

Most local law enforcement agencies have fielded calls about the scam in recent years, often involving elderly victims. The Polk County Sheriff's Office receives complaints about it almost twice a month, Sgt. Mark Garton said.

"Most people call us before they do something ... but some have actually sent money," Garton said. "There's nothing we can do about it after the fact."

Be Alert

If you suspect a scam call, the FBI recommends that you:

* Resist the pressure to act quickly.

* Contact your grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate.

* Never wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an e-mail, especially overseas.

* Call your local law enforcement agency.

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