SPANISH SPRINGS, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- It's a telephone scam targeting elderly people like grandparents, taking advantage of what could be their biggest weakness: their love for their grandchildren.
Imagine a loved one was hurt or in jail, and needed your help. Scammers hope grandparents are so worried, they will fork over the money without too many questions asked. Often, the grandparents get taken advantage of.
Donald and Helen Magos received a phone call last Monday, and on the other line was a cry for help. They figured it was their grandson, 22-year-old Joshua.
"He said, 'Is this Papa?' and he handed it to me, and said, 'Grandma?' He said 'Can you hear me? I've got a broken nose, I was in an accident. I turned a corner and hit a rental car. I need money to get out.' He was in jail apparently," Helen recalled.
Little did they know at the time, it was a telephone scammer using their hearts to try to steal $4,000 from them. According to the Federal Trade Commission, it's commonly known as the "Grandma" scam. It can happen anywhere and to anyone.
"Boy, I fell for it hook line and sinker."
Scammers bullied the Magos on the phone for three hours, barking out different numbers to call and foreign banks to wire money to.
Helen became suspicious when the scammer said Bogota, Columbia. "I thought, something's fishy here!"
The state Attorney General's office says to ask personal questions to figure out if a caller is scammer. That's what the Magos did. They asked for birthdays and relative names.
When the callers got aggressive, that's when the Magos knew they were dealing with scammers. "The way he was talking to me, I knew right then. It wasn't my grandson."
They say luckily, banks were closed. Although they didn't lose money, it was still a traumatic experience. "I was scared stiff. It really did a number on us. I was so shaky all day long."
The Magos say a clerk at Sparks Police would not let them file a police report, because these scams happen all the time. On Your Side reached out to the Sparks Police Department and they clarified that isn't their policy and will file this report.
Police add, there is not an influx of "Grandma" scams in the area, but it happens in waves and can be difficult to track.
The Federal Trade Commission says "Grandma" scammers typically start a phone call saying, "Grandma, can you guess who this is?" to gain access to personal information. If you receive a phone call like this, call the relative directly to confirm they need financial help.