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We’re Working Together to Protect You from Fraud

Bank of Canton and Canton Police Department foil attempted scam

Bank of Canton employees with officer

From left: Canton Police Officer Robert Zepf, Bank of Canton Customer Service Representative Susan Moore, President and CEO Stephen P. Costello and AVP of Security Paul McNiff.

The following article appeared in the February 28, 2019, edition of the Canton Citizen newspaper, under the headline, “Spot the Warning Signs of Financial Fraud,” by Peter Shea.

One morning last November, a Canton woman I’ll call Mrs. Johnson got a frightening phone call from her sobbing son who lives in the Pacific Northwest.

He had been arrested. He needed bail. It was $9,500 cash.

Her son quickly handed the phone to a police officer, who explained to Mrs. Johnson that she could wire the money for her son’s bail using Western Union. He would contact her in three hours with the details. So Mrs. Johnson quickly went to Bank of Canton, and asked to make a withdrawal.

Let’s pause the story here. Before I get to what happened next, I want to stress that this was a real event that happened to a real Bank of Canton customer. Sadly, it happens every day across the country to senior citizens and other vulnerable populations.

Commonly referred to as “The Grandparent Scam,” Mrs. Johnson’s story contains several telltale signs of fraud: an out-of-state relative in trouble, a high-pressure situation, a dollar amount just under $10,000, a demand for a wire transfer.

The Grandparent Scam can be perpetrated by anyone with just a little knowledge of the victim’s family.
By basing the scam on an emotional situation (like an arrest or a medical emergency), the supposed relative can plausibly cry, sob, and otherwise disguise their voice and quickly hand off the phone to someone else to continue the ruse.

In the scam, the dollar amount required to cover the relative’s expenses will almost always be just under $10,000. This is very deliberate: scammers know that banks have stricter recordkeeping and controls for transactions of $10,000 or more. By keeping their request to just under $10,000, they avoid placing their victim in a position where their wire transfer would receive additional scrutiny.

Mrs. Johnson’s situation was the second instance of The Grandparent Scam that our employees identified last year. This first time, an elderly woman withdrew thousands of dollars in cash because her granddaughter had called to tell her she was in jail in another state and needed the money. With the help of the Canton Police Department, we intervened in time to prevent the fraud.

Back to Mrs. Johnson…. Our banker Susan Moore listened carefully to her story, and contacted the bank’s assistant vice president of security, Paul McNiff. Paul arrived immediately, greeted Mrs. Johnson, and asked how he would get in touch with her son if he weren’t in jail – could she share his work or cell phone number, perhaps? Mrs. Johnson grew anxious; those phone numbers were at home, and she was in a hurry. So Paul offered to drive her back to her house (Mrs. Johnson doesn’t drive) to help resolve the situation. She agreed, and, once at home, they were able to reach her son at work and confirm that he was OK.

As for the scammers who called back three hours later? They found themselves talking to Canton Police Officer Robert Zepf (Paul had called the police about the incident, and they dispatched Officer Zepf to Mrs. Johnson’s house). Once the scammers realized they were talking to an actual police officer, they abruptly hung up and did not call back again.

The Grandparent Scam can happen to anyone. Remember the warning signs – an out-of-state incident, a high-pressure situation, a wire transfer request – and caution your elderly relatives about them before any signs of trouble. Working together, we can help keep our communities safe.

Peter Shea is the senior vice president of operations at Bank of Canton, and the president of the Canton Area Helpline/Canton Food Pantry. For additional financial security tips and information, visit www.ibankcanton.com/security. Bank of Canton: Member FDIC. Member DIF. Equal Housing Lender. NMLS #408169.

Upcoming Events

  • Free Estate Planning Lunch & Learn in Canton, February 11

    February 11 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm at Bank of Canton Corporate Headquarters

    The B.O.C. Life Solutions team will discuss how you and your family can:

    • Protect your assets from nursing home costs
    • Appoint a Health Care Proxy to assist with medical decisions
    • Pay minimal estate taxes
    • Avoid the uncertainty, costs, and delays of probate

    Event is open to the public, and lunch will be provided to those who RSVP. Call 781-830-6152 or email Peter Fredericksen with questions.

    RSVP Today!

    B.O.C. Life Solutions is a licensed subsidiary of Bank of Canton. Bank of Canton does not provide legal or tax advice; consult your legal/tax advisor.

  • Savvy Social Security Planning, February 27

    February 27 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm at Bank of Canton, Main Office Branch

    Join B.O.C. Financial Services for Savvy Social Security Planning, a presentation on maximizing your Social Security benefits and retirement income. Topics include:

    • Will Social Security still exist when I retire? Will it be enough to live on?
    • Should I file for Social Security benefits at 62, or wait until later? If not 62, then when?
    • What would my spousal benefits and/or survivor benefits be?

    Admission is free, and event is open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. Call 781-830-6152 or email Peter Fredericksen with questions.

    RSVP Today

    Investment and insurance products and services are offered through INFINEX INVESTMENTS, INC. Member FINRA/SIPC. B.O.C. Financial Services is a trade name of Bank of Canton. Infinex is not affiliated with the bank. Products and services made available through Infinex are not insured by the FDIC or any other agency of the United States and are not deposits or obligations of nor guaranteed or insured by any bank or bank affiliate. These products are subject to investment risk, including the possible loss of value.

Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, 1/20/20: In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, all Bank of Canton offices will be closed on Monday, January 20. We will reopen Tuesday, January 21, for regular business hours.