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Grandson stuck in Mexico?

Local grandmother made another call to avoid falling victim to scam
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Editor
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The voice on the other end of the line was almost convincing enough for Anne Siacotos to drive to a Western Union and wire money to her grandson who was allegedly stuck in Mexico. The Cool resident said Monday she recently received a call from a man claiming to be her grandson. The caller said he was arrested in Mexico after getting caught with three or four friends who had marijuana. There was even a “policeman” on the line saying her grandson needed bail money. “It really sounded official,” Siacotos said. Siacotos isn’t alone in almost falling prey to a scam commonly referred to as “the grandparent scam.” In the deception, a person poses as a grandchild in desperate need of money. Dena Erwin, spokeswoman for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, said they still receive calls about the scam. She estimated that at least once a month someone reports they received one of the suspect phone calls. If the recipient of the call believes that their grandchild is in another country and needs money, they then send the money through a wiring service. “People are calling us, but who knows how many are out there who are not,” Erwin said. “Sadly people are still falling for this scam. And once that money is wired, it is gone. There is no getting it back.” Siacotos, who also volunteers at the county museum in the Auburn historic courthouse, said a few things tipped her off that the situation wasn’t truthful. She said the man told her he looked up the closest Western Union and found one located on 165th Street in Auburn. She added that her grandson’s voice didn’t quite sound like him. “I thought, well, he might be scared,” Siacotos said. She said she also remembered her grandson doesn’t even like cigarettes let alone drugs and isn’t one to have three or four friends. Siacotos then asked if the call was a scam. “They said, ‘No, we know this kind of thing is going around,’” Siacotos said. They then gave her a phone number to call and a file number. “The policeman sounded so knowledgeable,” Siacotos said. In the end, however, “It didn’t quite smack true,” she said. Siacotos called her daughter-in-law, who then confirmed that her 19-year-old son and Siacotos’ grandson had just left for school and was going to work that evening. Siacotos did not call the men back. She said she hopes her tale will encourage others who receive similar phone calls to question them. “I think elderly people in particular need to be reminded to check into something,” Siacotos said. Reach Jenifer Gee at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com ---------- Who is on the other end of the line of a potential scam? Recently, Cool resident Anne Siacotos received a phone call from a man claiming to be her grandson. He said he was arrested in Mexico and needed bail money. A policeman then came on the line. Siacotos told the two men she would have to go to the bank and get back to them. They provided her with a phone number and a file number. Siacotos shared the phone number with the Journal. A man answered the phone when the Journal called. After the situation was explained and the man knew he was speaking to a newspaper, the man identified himself as Holden Wallin and said he owns Holden’s Restaurant in Toronto, Ontario. Wallin said the steak and fries restaurant employs 30 people. He said he had no idea about the scam or any call made. “I’m going to check with my employees,” Wallin said. “We don’t tolerate that.” The Journal could not find a record online of Holden’s Restaurant or Holden Wallin. When the Journal called the number, the man answering only said hello. The area code of the phone number represents an area of Quebec, which is the province next to Ontario. ---------- Tip to avoid being a scam victim Q: What’s the best way to avoid falling victim to a phone scam such as the one targeting grandparents? A: “Always check and confirm with your family that the grandchild is indeed out of the country. These people (the callers) can sound legitimate. We always want people to check with their family before they send anything.” - Answered by Dena Erwin, spokeswoman for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office ----------