Beware scammers who claim to have your friend’s phone during an emergency

The AARP is warning the public about a scam that’s been targeting people with friends on Maui.

It’s a variation of the “Family Impersonation Scam,” or the “Grandparents Scam.”

Judy Edwards used to live on Maui. She told us she got a call from a man who claimed to be a paramedic and said her friend was in a crash. Then he put the “father” of the person in the other car on the phone while he “tended to the wounded.”

“So this other man comes on the phone and he just starts screaming at me. He starts screaming things like, ‘I don’t want the cops to come. I’ve got your friend’s phone. She’s not going to get her phone back because she tried to call the cops, and we can’t have the cops because my son’s got a warrant out,'” Edwards said. “‘You need to figure out how you’re going to help her pay for my son’s hospital bills and damage,’ and he was screaming this.”

Edwards says her friend was off-island and had a feeling it was a scam, so she kept the man talking while her coworker called police. Turns out, the Maui Police Department said four other people had called about a similar scam.

While filing an official report with police, Edwards says she called the scammer back, but got a message saying the number was no longer in service.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network recommends that if you get a call about a relative or friend in danger and the caller asks for cash, you should pause, calm yourself, say you need to consult with someone, and hang up. Check to see if there is a real emergency and if it is real, you can respond appropriately. If not, you’ve avoided being scammed.

Complaints can be filed with the Federal Trade Commission and local authorities. You can also call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 1-877-908-3360 to share your story and receive assistance.

The FTC says scammers can buy personal information about people. Personal information about friends, relatives and where you live is also available on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Scammers hack accounts and look for targets on those networks.

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