A grandson calls and says he’s in trouble — what do you do? The caller identifies himself as your grandson, who is in jail in Canada and needs money for bail. Of course you will wire him the funds he needs, right? That’s what the crooks are counting on. Don’t do it! It’s a Trick!

Variations on the theme include car or other legal troubles in Canada, saying that authorities won’t let them leave the country without the money. The caller asks that money be sent to a friend, through Western Union.

While there is little police can do to help those who have lost money to such crooks, police warn others to be wary of such scams. Investigators say such scams have been used increasingly to target elderly people, by researching their would-be victims’ personal information before making contact.

A Web site, phonebusters.com, which was set up by a Canadian law enforcement task force, contains a long list of such scams. The Canadian scam task force can also be reached by phone at 1-888-495-8501.

Email variations are going around too. The email comes from a recognized address (a friend or relative) and says the person is stuck in England (or France, etc.) after being robbed and they need money. Do not click on any links or respond to such an email.

Tip-offs to scams include poor English in an email, or failure to identify the caller properly (Caller: “It’s your favorite grandson.” Grandmother: “Oh, Bobby?” Caller: “Yes, Bobby.” – you gave him the name!!!).

You could verify identities of callers with family secrets or inside jokes or other things that a stranger would not know. But, for the most part a family member will never call out of the blue with a need for money in a far off place. Do not send money to any unknown place, person or address. Call another family member to discuss and verify the facts before doing anything.