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Scammer scared off by threat to call his mother

Nancy Leeseberg

Nancy Leeseberg would have sworn the voice on the other end of the phone was her grandson.

Sworn on the life of another grandchild.

On the other end of the phone Thursday was a potential Academy-Award actor.

"Hi! Do you know who this is?"

"My oldest favorite grandson," Leeseberg responded promptly.

The aspiring thespian then relayed a tale of woe. He'd gone with a buddy to Guatemala...

He didn't get much further into the story when Leeseberg peppered him with questions.

How'd he get there and why? Who was he with?

The kid had all the answers. The buddy had won an after-school trip and another guy couldn't go.

Leeseberg was skeptical. She teased the voice on the other end of the line, "Jake, you're full of it!"

When the youth tried to persuade her otherwise, Leeseberg said, "I'm calling your mother right now!"


The line went dead.

The grandparent scam isn't as old as the hills, but it seems to work. And why depart from a tried and true formula?

Park Rapids Police Chief Terry Eilers said he usually gets calls about such scams during school breaks, Christmastime and summer.

"Sure, college has just gotten out..." he said. He urges grandparents to hang up on the scamsters.

But Leeseberg got her scam artist to hang up first.

Eilers applauded her for that.

The FBI warned in April that the scam was enjoying a resurgence.

"The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has been receiving reports about it since 2008," the FBI said in a nationwide alert. "But the scam and scam artists have become more sophisticated. Thanks to the Internet and social networking sites, a criminal can sometimes uncover personal information about their targets, which makes the impersonations more believable."

There was a creepy familiarity Leeseberg felt on the phone, but the caller never really identified himself.

"It's probably about that time again," Eilers said. "When they get off school and are out traveling around, doing little things, now would be a good time. A lot of schools just quit last week.

Prime travel times are usually ripe for the grandparent scam, Eilers noted.

"We're telling 'em, 'If they want to argue with you, slam the phone down on them,'" Eilers said.

But it's a scam the FBI said bilks billions of dollars out of unsuspecting people, so Eilers said not to fall for it.

Or take a page from Leeseberg.

Threaten to tell Mom.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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