Courtesy of The Alive Inside Foundation
If you or a loved one has been targeted by such a scam, call (800) 771-7755.
By Forum Staff
State Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Friday—National Grandparents Day—issued an alert to New Yorkers about the “Grandparent Scam,” a common phone scheme that targets seniors with calls from fraudsters that pose as a grandchild asking for money.
According to the AG, a senior receives an unexpected call from someone who claims to be their grandchild. The caller says there is an emergency and asks the grandparent to immediately send money. For example, the caller might say, “Grandma, I’m in Canada and got arrested for drunk driving. I need bail money fast.” Or the caller may claim to have been mugged while away from home, or that his car broke down while he was on vacation. The caller may also pose as an attorney or a law enforcement official contacting the grandparent on behalf of a grandchild, Underwood noted.
The scammers often call in the middle of the night to take advantage of the fact that the victim may not be alert enough to ask more questions, and that the victim may not want to disturb other family members by calling them to confirm the information, the AG added.
Victims are often instructed to go out and buy pre-paid debit cards or gift cards and to call back and read the serial number on the cards, allowing the crook to transfer the funds. Victims often lose thousands of dollars and the money is rarely recovered, as the scammers can be calling from anywhere in the world. The scam is severely underreported, Underwood said, as many victims are embarrassed and do not want to tell anyone that they fell for the ruse.
“Stealing from seniors by exploiting their love for their grandchildren is despicable,” she fumed.
In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission received 18,912 complaints of individuals impersonating family members and friends, up from 15,076 in 2016.
Underwood offered tips to protect against the Grandparent Scam:
• Be suspicious of anyone who calls unexpectedly asking you to send money.
• Never purchase pre-paid debit cards or gift cards for the purpose of transferring money.
• Develop a secret code or “password” with family members that can be used to verify the identity of family members over the phone.
• Ask a question that only the real grandchild would know the answer to, such as “What was the name of your first pet?”
• Verify any supposed emergency by calling friends and family before sending money.
The attorney general also shared a public service announcement featuring the “Grandkids against the Grandparent Scam” initiative, in which high school students are enlisted to warn their parents and grandparents about the scam. The PSA features pop culture icon Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who shares her experience about almost falling victim to the scheme.
Additional information from Underwood about the Grandparent Scam is available in a brochure on the AG’s website at ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/grandparent_scheme_brochure.pdf.
Underwood also encouraged New Yorkers who have been targeted by the scam to call the AG’s Consumer Helpline: (800) 771-7755.