The phone rings and you hear a panicked voice on the other end of the line. It's your grandchild, they say, and they tell you they are in jail in Mexico and need money wired down there to get out.

That is one of the scams commonly taking place today. The "grandchild" is an actor, and seniors can assume the poor connection makes them sound a little different than usual.

"That's one where they prey on older people," said Cpt. Doug Anderson of the McPherson County Sheriff's Office. "I've had people actually wire money."

Telephone scams often target the elderly, aiming to confuse or intimidate them into giving out their personal information or sending money.

"Generally, it's going to be a lot of high-pressure and they're going to be talking fast," Anderson said. "Don't give into pressure to take immediate action."

Scammers may also ask questions like "can you hear me?" in an attempt to record you saying "yes."

"They can use that to show you agreed to do what they're wanting," Anderson said.

Sometimes scammers pose as an agent of the IRS.

"They say you owe a certain amount of money and if you don't pay it, they'll come get you," Anderson said.

Anderson said he has also been involved in cases of people impersonating law enforcement, saying you have a warrant and that you need to pay money or be arrested. No one can pay to get out of being arrested and there is an easy way to verify if the caller is legitimate.

"If they say they're from law enforcement, have them give their name, badge number and a callback number," Anderson said.

Even having caller ID is no protection from scammers.

"They can ghost a number and make it look like it's coming from a local number," Anderson said.

Anytime someone contacts you wanting personal information, you should be suspicious, Anderson cautioned.

"Never give your bank account or routing number — anything like that. Never," Anderson said.

If you are told you have won a prize, contest or lottery and need to pay shipping and handling or a service charge, that should send up a red flag.

"If you win a lottery, you don't have to pay to get your winnings," Anderson said.

Another telltale sign of a scam is a claim that you've won a lottery in another country. Playing in foreign lotteries is illegal.

"They run the gamut," Anderson said. "If it sounds too good to be true, then it is."

If you receive an email from someone you do not know, do not click on any links or open any attachments. Scammers can make emails look like they come from nationally-known companies, so be wary when asked in an email login to your account or reset your password.

"There's a lot of phishing going on," Anderson said.

You should also take precautions if a stranger knocks on your door.

"You don't have to answer it," Anderson said. "Anymore, especially out in the country, I would be suspicious."

Sometimes burglars and thieves will knock on the door to see if anyone is home before breaking in. If a stranger makes you uncomfortable, call 911 and give a description of the person and their vehicle.

Cpt. Kevin McKean of the McPherson Police Department spoke to members of the McPherson Chamber of Commerce Wednesday about how to protect their businesses, including knowing how to spot counterfeit bills and making sure doors are locked at night.

"We may see an increase (in crime) here in McPherson now that we're getting close to the holiday season," McKean said. "It affects everybody."

If you are the victim of a scam, report it to city or county law enforcement.

"A lot of times people are too embarrassed and they don't report it," Anderson said.

You can also contact the Kansas Attorney General's office or the Better Business Bureau to learn more about consumer protection.

"There's all kinds of places you can go to for help," Anderson said.

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.