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Casselton couple loses money in 'grandson-in-need' scam

CASSELTON, N.D. - Authorities say an elderly couple from Casselton was scammed out of more than $1,000 by someone who claimed to be their grandson and told them he was involved in a crash and arrested for drunken driving and needed money for an attorney.

The couple said they thought the person on the phone - who claimed to be in a Canadian jail near Niagara Falls - sounded like their grandson. The phone number on their caller ID showed the call originating from Ontario, Canada, said Deputy Jolene Fletcher of the Cass County Sheriff's Office.

The couple agreed to wire the money via Western Union, Fletcher said. They began to question the story when a different man claiming to be their grandson's attorney called and asked for more money to cover the cost of his tuition and books, she said.

The couple's grandson initially didn't answer his phone when they tried to call him, but they eventually reached his mother and learned that he'd been at home, Fletcher said.

To avoid such scams, Fletcher advised people to ask personal questions of the caller or establish a code word for family members to use in a real emergency.

She said the elderly couple said they had heard about the scam before from news reports.

"But when it happens to you, there's that sense of urgency and you want to help your loved ones," she said.

Fletcher said it's unlikely the couple will recover their money, "but we'll follow every lead that we can."