Crime & Courts

Wichita grandad warns of telephone con artists

The phone rang at 11:33 a.m. Thursday.

"This is your favorite grandson," the caller said.

"Chris?" the Wichita man asked.

The caller latched onto the name.

"Chris" said he was in a jail in Canada. He said he'd been arrested for drunken driving after running a stop sign. He said he needed $2,700 to bail himself out of jail.

"I went and got the money," the man said.

The man asked that his name not be made public for fear of being targeted by criminals. But he said he wanted fellow Wichitans to know about the scam that almost cost him $2,700.

"It's scary how close we came," his wife said.

Wichita police Lt. Mike Hennessy said the call was a classic example of the "grandparent scam," which con artists have been using for years to take money from seniors.

After claiming to be a favorite granddaughter or grandson, the callers say they are in jail, in the hospital or in some other crisis situation that requires money. They typically insist that the victim not tell anyone else.

"It's happening all over the United States," Hennessy said. "There have been close to a dozen that we've been tracking."

Hennessy said the Web site outlines the mechanics of the con game under the heading "Emergency scam."

In the latest Wichita case, the would-be victim said he withdrew $2,700 from his bank and was ready to follow the caller's instructions and wire the money to Canada.

It was his daughter, he said, who persuaded him to do a little research first. A call to Chris' father showed that Chris was, in fact, in Wichita.

Instead of wiring the money to Canada, the daughter called the police. The man who almost lost $2,700 said he was worried that someone else might fall victim to the scam.

"I'm really concerned about somebody else being defrauded like that," he said.