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Police warn of scam targeting seniors

Posted 12/8/18

State Police at Oneida is warning citizens of a scam that preys on grandparents after several senior citizens in the community recently lost more than $56,000 in what is known as the “Grandparent …

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Police warn of scam targeting seniors

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State Police at Oneida is warning citizens of a scam that preys on grandparents after several senior citizens in the community recently lost more than $56,000 in what is known as the Grandparent Scam” or Family Emergency Scam.”

• On Oct. 8, an 83-year-old husband and wife from Verona received calls from people purporting to be their grandsons who said they had just been arrested and needed $14,000 in cash for legal fees.  

• On Nov. 20, a 79-year-old woman from Oneida received a call from a person claiming to be her son-in-law who said they had just been in an accident and needed $7,600 in cash because he was just arrested and needed the money for bail. 

• On Nov. 26, an 87-year-old woman received a phone call from a person who identified themselves as her grandson who said they needed $40,000 in cash for legal fees. 

The scammer allegedly then told the women to call “lawyers” who were representing them and when they did, the “lawyer” demanded they wire him cash.

In all three cases, the money was sent without delay. These scammers are skilled enough to obtain the name of the grandchild either through a different phone call or online, troopers said. They can find out the same online personal information about the grandparents.

State Police urge grandparents finding themselves in a similar situation to try and get in touch with their grandchild or the child’s parents to confirm the status of the child before sending any money.

Grandparents can also ask a question only their grandchild would know such as the name of a pet, the grandchild’s mother’s birthday or the name of the grandchild’s elementary school.

Police urge anyone victimized in similar incidents to contact the New York Office of the Attorney General at 1-800-771-7755 and to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online at ftc.gov/complaint or call 877-382-4357.

Tips for receiving calls such as this

Verify an Emergency

If someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a family member or a friend desperate for money: Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is. Verify the person’s identity by asking questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer.

Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine. Check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret. Don’t wire money — or send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier. Report possible fraud at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Scammers use tricks and impersonate
loved ones convincingly

Social networking sites make it easier than ever to sleuth out personal and family information. Scammers also could hack into the e-mail account of someone you know. To make their story seem legitimate, they may involve another crook who claims to be an authority figure, like a lawyer or police officer.

They play on your emotions.

Scammers are banking on your love and concern to outweigh your skepticism. In one version of this scam, con artists impersonate grandchildren in distress to trick concerned grandparents into sending money. Sometimes, this is called a “Grandparent Scam.”

They swear you to secrecy.

Con artists may insist that you keep their request for money confidential – to keep you from checking out their story and identifying them as imposters. Victims of this scam often don’t realize they’ve been tricked until days later when they speak to their actual family member or friend who knows nothing about the “emergency.” By then, the money they sent can’t be recovered.

They insist you wire money right away.

Scammers pressure people into wiring money because it’s like sending cash – once it’s gone, you can’t trace it or get it back. Imposters encourage using money transfer services so they can get your money before you realize you’ve been scammed.

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