COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — The Columbus Police Department’s Property Crimes Unit is warning the public against a number of scams being reported as the “Grandparent Scams.”

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports “consumers lost nearly $8.8 billion to fraud in 2022, an increase of more than 30 percent over the previous year.”

A common scam that has made its way to Columbus is known as the Grandparent Scam.

I worked a case about four years ago and it was over $300,000 and it was wired in three different amounts. She wired the first amount. They said, ‘oh, it worked.’ So they increased the amount. They kept changing the scenario and adding things to make the ‘crime’ seem worse. It was ‘her grandson in jail out west.’ And that’s why she needed to send more ‘bail money’ for him. So I tracked the money all the way to California and then from there, it bounced to three different countries overseas.

Sgt. Jane Edenfield, Property Crimes Unit, Columbus Police Department

The FTC says these scams usually start with the caller pretending to be a grandkid in trouble – needing money for bail, an attorney or other reasons. Sometimes, the scammer will even pose as an attorney collecting fees for their “supposed client.”

CPD’s Property Crimes Unit has seen a handful of local suspects this year in Columbus but most times, that’s not the case.

Typically, the suspects are not even in this country… they’re overseas. When we search IP addresses, they’re in another country somewhere. They’re pretending to be here and they use threats to pressure you. ‘And if you don’t pay, I’m going to come to your house.’

Sgt. Jane Edenfield, Property Crimes Unit, Columbus Police Department

Although the name refers to elderly people as the victims, Sgt. Edenfield says it’s not just the elderly who are vulnerable to the scam.

They also target people that are not necessarily what we think are grandparents, elderly people. We have people in their 30s and 40s that fall for it.

Sgt. Jane Edenfield, Property Crimes Unit, Columbus Police Department

Sgt. Edenfield recommends people to:

  • check bank accounts daily for suspicious activity
  • check if bank offers credit reports or credit checks
  • use identity theft protection software (i.e. LifeLock)

According to Georgia law, the penalty for wire fraud can be up to a 20-year prison sentence and thousands of dollars in fines.