So apparently I was arrested for possession of drugs in Canada

Today at 11 I got a call from my dad telling me that he just got a call from my grandpa with a bizarre story. Here it is: my grandpa was called by someone, impersonating me, who claimed that I had been arrested in Canada, for being in the car with someone who was in possession of drugs, which supposedly made me also guilty of possession. This caller told my grandpa that I would be imprisoned for 9 months unless he sent bail money of $6,000. He was told to go to the Duane Reade pharmacy and send a money order to this caller’s address. My grandpa was not, as you might imagine, convinced by this claim. He asked the caller what my name was; he wasn’t given an answer. :dubious: He asked the caller what my mother’s name was; he wasn’t given an answer. He asked for the address to send the money to; he was given an address located in England (despite the caller claiming to be in Canada.)

Needless to say, he didn’t go in for this strange and poorly-executed scam attempt, but he did tell my dad about it, who then told me. Apparently my grandpa called the NYPD, the FBI, and the District Attorney’s office with the number of the idiot who called him; he claimed, though, that it was such a common scam that it would probably be pointless to even try to find whoever was responsible for the call.

Weird, isn’t it? Has anyone else heard of this kind of scam?

Yes, it’s a scam. Good on your grandfather for not falling for it.

Hadn’t heard of this one before. Hope more people learn about it (in time).

The caller didn’t know your (ostensibly his) name? How did that work?

“Hi, it’s your grandson, I’m in prison.”

“Which grandson?”

“Uhh… the one most likely to be in prison.”

This is a pretty common scam, and relies on the old person being easily confused and blurting out the name of the grandchild. They tried this on my grandmother. Here’s how it started:

“Hi, Grandma?”

Since my grandmother has only one grandson, she naturally replies with my name. Then the patter begins, in order to quickly make the target (almost always an old person) forget they volunteered the name. She didn’t send any money, but they had her pretty confused for a bit. Good con man plus old person equals a decent chance of eliciting a name and confusion.

If you don’t get them to give up the name, it doesn’t work, but so what? They call 100 fogeys and if one falls for it, it’s a good score.

Another variation on this is the Hotel Credit Card Scam, which was once tried on me. The caller calls a hotel and asks to speak to random room numbers. When they get someone they say “Hi, it’s Tim, assistant manager down at the front desk. When we took your credit card number we must have made some error… we’ve only got fifteen numbers here. Ha ha, our mistake. Would you mind getting your card and reading the number?” Apparently some people fall for it.

Gotta give those bastards credit…

I have not heard of the Hotel Credit Card Scam, but I could see circumstances where it could work pretty successfully----get in after a late flight, tired, jet lagged, a bit drunk; it seems that if these people could put thier creative energies towards honest persuits instead of being fucking scumbag criminal parasites, they could come up with the next big idea…

I recently got a call (answering service got it) from some bozo who insisted that I won one of 4 prizes for a sweepstakes I don’t ever remember entering. Umm, mmm, rmmm, nahhh…

Was it the “Publishers’ Sweepstakes?” Some scumbag called me about a year ago saying I had won the “Publishers’ Sweepstakes” and I strung him along for about 15 minutes just seeing how long he could evade my questions about who and what he was representing. ("Uh…we’re the publishers…we have a sweepstakes…it’s called the publisher’s sweepstakes…because we’re publishers…) Finally I told him to go suck my scum.

I got the call at about 7 in the morning. Perfect timing. It was an airport hotel near LAX, so who’re you going to get? A rushed businessperson, getting ready for their day, distracted, half dressed, still a bit foggy, thinking about the morning’s meetings.

I didn’t fall for it. But again, not everyone has to. You just need one person to not think it through and you’ve got your day’s score.

Yip. It’s just like old-fashioned SPAM. They’ll stop doing it when people stop falling for it. They don’t need a high return rate, just a nonzero one.

I had one of those years ago. It was for a vacation. Sorry don’t want it. The guy gave me a rash of shit for turning down a free prize. I put the phone down and let him continue talking (best to ask for a full explanation first). That way I’ve contributed to the world by taking up his time and I don’t have to be present to win.

In Asia you’ve got criminal gangs having young women call elderly people, pretending to be their daughter or granddaughter, crying hysterically and saying that they’ve been kidnapped and the (grand)parents must transfer money to a certain bank account right away. There’s no question of trying to string them along and trying some 419baiter stupidity, as the gangs know the targets’ names and phone numbers and presumably their addresses, and screwing around with the gangsters is a Bad Idea.

My mom’s friend has a son abroad, and while he was on a trip and in an area that made getting in touch difficult (no cellphone access etc) they got a ransom call from people claiming to have kidnapped their son, don’t contact the cops, wire money by tomorrow or he’s dead, etc. They said they weren’t sure whether to believe it or not but the possibility was so terrifying that they ended up sending them part of the money before they could finally get in contact with their son, who assured them he most certainly had not been kidnapped. They did tell the police in the end but apparently it’s very difficult to trace these people.

My now deceased aunt had this same scam pulled on her once on the pretense that one of her many nephews needed bailing out of jail. She would be the most gullible of my relatives, but even she spotted it for a scam. Besides that, she was cheap and wanted to know why nephew didn’t just call his parents. And I and other relatives were visiting her when the call came in.

Great. My daughter has an upcoming trip to Lima, Peru.

Evidently, folks up here in my hometown are particularly gullible…

How does this work? Any random 16 digit number* will match a real, authentic card somewhere in the world. Wouldn’t they also need to ask your name,your billing address and the expiration date of the card? And wouldn’t you be suspicious if the “hotel clerk” doesnt know your name when you just wrote it on the check-in form?

*(within certain rules, of course.No cards start with 9999, for example),.’ But I assume that scammers know the rules.

That would mean there are as many as 9,999,999,999,999,999 cards in the world, enough for appx. 14,000 cards per person worldwide.
The odds are long you could randomly guess a valid card number.

Exactly. Assuming–huge assumption here–that there are 1 billion credit cards in the world, you’d have 1 in a million chance of guessing a number correctly–and that’s before you guess the expiration date and name correctly.

Obviously that’s not exactly accurate, since there’s a lot of zeroes in most numbers (I think Cecil did a column on this decades ago, but I can’t find it). Still, they’d be extraordinarily difficult to guess.

Well, of course you’d be suspicious. But it doesn’t matter if 99% of the marks get suspicious. It’s the odd one who isn’t thinking, or is unusually stupid, that pays for the process.