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Triad's Canavan Shares Details of the "Granny Scam"

Jan 02, 2018 09:22AM ● By Marjorie Turner Hollman

Shown above at Triad Meeting (L-R): Beverly Trimm, Paul Peter, Joe Canavan, Tsune Roberts

story & photo by Marjorie Turner Hollman, Contributing Writer

Deputy Sheriff of Norfolk County and Director of the Triad Division, Joseph Canavan, visits Bellingham on a regular basis to be available to seniors (and others) to answer questions, to offer services such as the Yellow Dot program and File of Life booklets, and to provide public safety information. He was joined at the Bellingham Senior Center in December by a group of people interested in hearing how to protect themselves from scams of various sorts. As the hour progressed, it turned out that many who attended had been touched by one form of scam or another, aimed either at them personally or at someone in their family.

Canavan began his presentation by sharing details of what he called the “Granny Scam,” someone calling to say your grandchild is in trouble and needs help. “You know, each family has one family member who gets into trouble,” Canavan said. “Scammers used to say they were the police, but now they’ve gotten more careful; they say they’re the college police; it’s harder to confirm this. And the longer you talk, the more information the scammer picks up from you. They are very good at this.”

The best defense? “Don’t pick up your phone!” Canavan said. “Let it go to voice mail. Scammers just want you to talk—they are very clever.”

Throughout the program Canavan shared stories of people who had called the Sheriff’s department looking for help because of scams. He also offered stories of his own younger days. He pointed out, “They call these Granny scams, not Mom scams. Moms are not as easily fooled about their own kids.” He then shared a humorous story from his own youthful days when he called his mom asking for money to get home by plane. His mother’s response? “Your room will be here when you get back. Take the bus.”

Canavan finished the story by saying, “And that’s why these are not Mom scams—go for the grandparents. They’ll do anything for their grandkids.”

He listed other scams such as calls by people pretending to be from the IRS, or postal scams—saying you’ve won a lottery and have to cash the check and send back a bank check for “fees.” The victim will later learn that the check they cashed is no good, so they are out the money they sent. Canavan also talked briefly about door-to-door scams that target older people.

Repeatedly, Canavan warned, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” He also emphasized, “Never give out your Social Security number or credit card number unless you initiated the call and know who you are talking to.” He offered red flags to keep in mind—asking for payment in gift cards or Western Union or bank checks.

“By picking up the phone, and being courteous, you are vulnerable,” Canavan said. He then shared a comedy routine he had seen, in which the comic talked about how, in the past, when we heard a knock on the door, we’d call “Come in!” but that these days a knock on the door sends us to the door in panic. “It’s funny, but true,” Canavan said. “By answering your door, you’re vulnerable.”

He noted that “victims often don’t report these crimes because they are ashamed that they were taken advantage of. Older people are afraid their children will take away their independence.”

Canavan suggested subscribing to a scam notification website that he uses,, which provides information by email about scam alerts and additional information about potential scams.

For questions or concerns, feel free to contact the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Department, 781-329-3705, or the Bellingham Police Department.






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