Police are warning residents about a telephone scam in which a caller impersonates someone’s grandchild and then asks for money to be sent to them immediately.

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office warned about the so-called grandparent scam, which has increased in prevalence in recent months and relies on the fact that most grandparents would do almost anything for their grandchildren, the sheriff’s office said.

The scam begins with a telephone call by someone who purports to be the target’s grandchild. The scammer then tells the targeted person that they are in trouble and need money immediately. Sometimes the scammer tells the target that they are in jail and need cash for bail, or that they are in trouble and need to hire an attorney.

Some cases involve a second scammer, who gets on the phone and claims to be an attorney for the grandchild who is in trouble. Other variations involve the scammer telling the target that they are traveling, lost their money or identification, and need cash fast to get home.

In every variation, the scam involves creating a heightened sense of immediacy, the sheriff’s office said. Sometimes the scammers are able to gather information about the family that is not readily available, adding a sense of realism to the scam.

“Grandparents have lost thousands of dollars because they have done what every grandparent would do, and that is to respond immediately and send money to a scammer thinking that they were actually helping their grandchild out of trouble,” the sheriff’s office wrote in a statement. It was unclear how many local residents have fallen victim to the scam, or how much money they have lost cumulatively.

Anyone who receives such a call should ask for a call-back number and verify the validity of the call before giving over any information, money or credit card information, or to simply call the grandchild directly to verify that the call is real, the sheriff’s office said.

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