MANTUA -- A South Jersey couple who thought they were doing the right thing to get their grandson out of an Arizona jail were the victims of the "Grandparent Scam."

Mantua Police posted the couple's story of getting a call from someone who identified themselves as an Arizona lawyer seeking $3,000, to be paid in gift cards, to bail out their 16-year-old grandson.

"Please let any elderly people in your life know that bail will NEVER be accepted in the form of gift cards," warned police, who said the couple sent $2,000 worth of Best Buy gift cards as instructed.

"Not too long ago we had a similar situation, however with iTunes gift cards. The more we can educate ourselves on these types of scams the less victims we will have," the message said.

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs suggests if you get a call asking for money, the first thing to do is check with another family member to find out if the person calling really needs help. The Mantua couple's grandson was nowhere near Arizona, according to NJ.com, which reported the couple was able to recover $250 thanks to the bar codes on the cards.

Other suggestions:

    • Take the time now to talk with your family about this and similar scams. Consider creating a code word or phrase – one only the family would know – in case it becomes necessary to make an emergency call for help.
    • Make it a personal policy and a family policy, never to wire money without being sure the story you’re being told is true.
    • If you send money and believe you’ve been scammed, contact the money transfer service immediately to report the scam. They may be able to block the transfer if it hasn’t been picked up
    • Some scammers will mention specific details – like the names of the grandchild’s actual relatives or friends – to make their story more believable. Scammers can find this information in obituaries, social networking websites, or other places on the Internet.

If you believe you have been scammed, contact the Division of Consumer Affairs at 800-242-5646.

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