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Phone scammers pose as family members to target victims

Police say the scam is more complex than a typical phone scam and is happening more often.

GRANVILLE, Ohio — It's a scam that's difficult to tell is a scam and it's one that might make you think twice about what you share on social media.

These scammers are stealthy at first -- and police say their strategy is stalking your social media to know exactly who your loved ones are. Then they use that as leverage to steal thousands of dollars.

LaVerne Fudge-Williamson dodged this scam. She got the call Thursday morning while at work.

"The person was crying and said, ‘mom, mom’ - and he could barely talk,” Fudge-Williamson said.

She explained her frightening ordeal started with a phone call.

“And then all of a sudden, what was perceived to be a policeman got on the phone and said, ‘Hello, I'm a police officer. Just wanna let you know your son has been in an accident.’"

The caller claimed to be a police officer who was with her son -- sobbing and injured. He even used his name. The story was long -- and detailed -- and she was told her son was being held on charges related to the accident.

“His bail's at I think he said $15,150 I know it was 15,000 something he said but it's a cash bond that will have to be paid.”

She hung up and called her sons and she got through to them. That’s when she knew it was a scam.

“Everybody was where they should have been no accidents, and nothing happened.”

It's a scam Granville Police Chief William Caskey said is on the rise.

“In some of these cases, they've gotten away with $20,000.”

He said it's so complex -- that the scammers will also arrange a rideshare driver to pick up the money in person.

"And they get a percentage of the cash,” Chief Caskey said.

"We call this the emergency scam it’s sometimes called the grandparent scam,” said Judy Dollison, the president of the Better Business Bureau Serving Central Ohio.

She said you should always be cautious about the information you share online – even if it’s as simple as a birthday celebration post for a relative. That’s how the scammers identify who you are related to.

Fortunately in LaVerne Fudge-Williamson’s case – she had a strange feeling – and knew exactly what to do.

"I had immediately tried to get a hold of all my family members,” she said. “And fortunately, I was able to get a hold of everybody and knew everybody was good."

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