Q: I was told that some schools are starting earlier this year before the Labor Day weekend. Does this affect all the schools in our area or just certain ones?

A: Yes, schools are starting early this year. In fact, for the first time, both Santa Monica College and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District are starting the same week. SMC begins on Monday, Aug. 29 and the SMMUSD will begin on Tuesday, Aug. 30. Both are working together to help notify those residents that will be affected by the additional traffic that accompanies the start of every school year.

The college and school district are working with City Hall and the Big Blue Bus to help manage the increased activity. There will be additional traffic control officers. Big Blue Bus will be deploying extra buses and new larger buses to help meet the demand. The college is advising students who drive to park at satellite locations. The college, the Associated Students, and the Big Blue Bus are continuing their “Any Line, Any Time” partnership to reduce vehicle trips.

Parents who drive their children to John Adams Middle School or to Will Rogers Elementary are encouraged to plan their schedule and allow enough time for drop off and pick up. Students who take the Big Blue Bus to Santa Monica High School are encouraged to be aware of the very high demand on the buses during the first few weeks. Residents may wish to use alternate routes or to adjust their schedule for the first week or so of classes.

In addition, please be aware of the increased pedestrian traffic and the need to be extra vigilant in looking for pedestrians around the schools. Often times children become excited about the beginning of a new school year and may not always be thinking about their safety when crossing the street. Parents, please remind children to make sure that they adhere to the rules of the road, whether they are walking, or riding a bicycle, scooter or skateboard. We wish success in their studies for our students and safe streets for all of us.

Q: I have an elderly mother that said she got a phone call from one of my children. My mother was told by my son that he was in Mexico and needed money ASAP to get out of jail. Fortunately, she called me and we verified that my son was not in Mexico, did not need money and was not even the person that called. Has this happened to other people and what can be done to stop it?

A: What you are describing is called the “Grandparent Scam.” This is a new twist in an old telephone scam that preys on grandparents who think they are helping their grandchildren in an emergency.

The scam involves a grandparent receiving a call from a person claiming to be their grandson or granddaughter. The caller says he/she is traveling in a foreign country and is in legal trouble or was in an accident. What they need from their relative is emergency cash. To make the plea for cash seem even more urgent, calls are usually made in the middle of the night, and the scammer always insists that the funds be sent by wire or overnight delivery.

In the past, those targeted could easily rattle the scammer by asking personal questions only certain people could answer, such as the grandchild’s nickname, the name of the college attended, and the name of a childhood pet. However, due to the popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and even Twitter, the scammer may have access to that information and a lot more.

What can you do?

1. Talk to your family about making their social media pages less accessible to anyone other than friends and family.

2. Warn your family and friends about this scam.

3. Listen to the caller and take notes, including the person’s caller ID.

4. Do not reveal any personal information to the caller about yourself or your family.

5. Verify the location of your family members by contacting them directly before committing to send them any funds.

6. If the scammer claims your relative was arrested, contact the U.S. Embassy in the country involved and ask for assistance or verification of an arrest.

7. Report the scam to your local police department.

To report a scam, call the Santa Monica Police Department at (310) 458-8491 (24 hours).

For further information on these tips or for other crime prevention topics, please contact the Community Relations Unit at (310) 458-8474.

This column was prepared by NRO Jeff Glaser (Beat 3: Downtown, including the Third Street Promenade). He can be reached at (424) 200-0683 or jeffrey.glaser@smgov.net.