When a 'grandchild' calls for cash, best to beware


POSTED: Thursday, October 22, 2009
This story has been corrected.  See below.

Question: Can you warn your readers about a scam in which someone calls asking for money for a grandchild? My husband answered the phone when someone, pretending to be our grandson, said he had gotten into a DUI accident in British Columbia. He said he needed money for an attorney. He knew our grandson's name, but our grandson is only 12 and living here. We played along and when the attorney called, we said we had to go to the bank. He gave us a telephone number, but it was bogus. A police officer said this was a well-known scam and nothing could be done if we didn't have a telephone number to trace.

Answer: This scam across the mainland was reported a year ago by the Better Business Bureau.

In October 2008 (hsblinks.com/10h), the BBB said it had received reports “;about grandparents from California to New Hampshire who thought they were aiding their grandchildren by providing money for an emergency situation but were in fact giving thousands of dollars to Canadian con artists.”;

Both the BBB of Hawaii and the Honolulu Police Department have received a few calls about the scam this year. For now, HPD says it doesn't appear to be a big problem in Honolulu.

“;We have received maybe two complaints over the past several months,”; said HPD spokesman Maj. Clayton Kau.

The Hawaii BBB said it received “;a few calls”; from Hawaii residents in July and August, reporting calls similar to the one you describe.

The general scenario is that a grandchild, visiting Canada, got arrested for DUI and was calling to ask for a few thousand dollars to be wired to pay for an attorney or to pay a fine.

It's not certain how the scammers are obtaining phone numbers, but it's believed they are calling random numbers until they reach a senior citizen.

The BBB says the scammer posing as a grandchild is able to con the grandparent into divulging information, such as the child's name. The scammer might say, “;It's your favorite grandchild,”; and the grandparent then might respond with a name.

In situations like this, “;We would like to remind the public, especially the elderly, that if they are contacted they should check with family members right away and call the police,”; Kau said.

The BBB also advises:

» See any request to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram as a “;red flag.”; That's because money sent via wire transfers is hard to track and usually not recoverable.

» In addition to calling police, report the scam to the Hawaii BBB at 536-6956 (877-222-6551 from neighbor islands) or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Question: What is the legal age to purchase aerosol (spray) paint? I was in a store and witnessed a cashier selling spray paint to two boys who looked to be between 10 and 12.

Answer: Under Section 40-5 of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu, you have to be at least 18 to purchase spray paint, defined as paint contained in an aerosol container.

That law prohibits “;the sale to, possession of or use by minors of chemical substances containing volatile organic solvents.”; However, “;a person may sell, give, lend or transfer possession of a toxic chemical substance to a minor for model building or other lawful use”; with a parent's permission.

Violators face a $100 fine, three months in jail or both.









The number for the Hawaii BBB is 536-6956. A wrong number was originally given in this article.