By Eric Kowal, Picatinny Arsenal Public AffairsOctober 4, 2012
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - "Send $3,000 to help get your grandson out of jail in Mexico."
That was part of the demand by scam artists who knew a little too much information about a Picatinny Arsenal military family.
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Fredrick Wiedenmann, an administrative chief with G Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Corps Regiment, said that his grandparents were victims of a cruel hoax that almost worked.
The call came on Sept.4. Wiedenmann and his wife Kristy and their two children were here on the Arsenal, yet his unsuspecting grandparents were being tricked into believing that they were on vacation in Mexico and had been stopped and arrested by police.
"Make sure you always keep in contact with your family," Kristy said after the incident. "Especially when going on vacation, always tell someone where you are."
Wiedenmann said that he talks to his grandparents often, but now will speak to them more frequently.
The scammers told Wiedenmann's grandfather, who flew planes in World War II with the Army Air Corps, that his grandson had drugs and drug paraphernalia in their car at the time of their arrest.
He said they even put someone on the phone who sounded like Wiedenmann to help make the story more believable.
Wiedenmann believes that whoever was trying to pull off this scam was not an amateur.
"They knew everything. They knew the names of my children, when I was retiring from the military, where I lived, everything," he said.
Not being familiar with such scams, Wieidenmann's grandparents went to their bank and withdrew $3,000 to wire to the bank account in Mexico provided by the scammers.
They then went to their nearest Western Union to transfer the money. It was there that an agent intervened.
The Western Union representative listened to their story and said that these types of scams are happening all the time,especially to military families.
She asked if they had tried to talk to their grandson. When they said no, she suggested they make contact before completing the transaction.
Wiedenmann's grandfather contacted his son (Wiedenmann's father) to verify that everything was ok.
When everyone learned the truth, the Wiedenmann's reflected on what almost happened.
"This was all new to my grandparents," Wiedenmann said. "These people were using us as pawns to get money from our family," he said.
Kristy was even more upset. "I'm still shaken," she said.
"It makes me really worried and now I'm wondering about our every step."
The Wiedenmann's want every military family to know about these scams.
Here are some tips to sidestep fraudulent schemes:
• Talk to your loved ones and let them know that before they take any type of action they should try to make contact with you first.
• They should also write down any information that they can that would help with an investigation such as phone number, names, cities, anything that could help police locate the culprits.
• File a report with your local police.
Even if nothing turns up in the investigation there will be a paper trail to help solidify the case when they are eventually caught.
• Be careful what you post on social media sites such as Facebook.
• Be wary of who you share information with.
• Check your credit report every so often; maybe once or twice a year to ensure that others are not taking advantage of you and your credit status.
If you see something you do not recognize, report and dispute it.