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Attorney General James Issues Warning About Scam Targeting Grandparents During Pandemic

  • “Grandparent Scam” Targets Seniors with Phone Calls from Fraudsters Posing as Grandchild Asking for Money
  • With Seniors More Isolated Than Ever Due to COVID-19 Restrictions,
  • AG James Offers New Yorkers Tips to Protect Themselves

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today issued an alert to New Yorkers, warning them about the “Grandparent Scam,” a common phone scam that targets senior citizens with calls from fraudsters posing as a grandchild of the victim and asking for money. Attorney General James also shared a public service announcement in which high school students explain how the scam works and tips on avoiding becoming a victim to grandparents. The announcement features television personality Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who shares her experience about almost falling victim to the scam.

“Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many grandparents have not seen their grandchildren for months and maybe especially susceptible to this common and despicable scam,” said Attorney General James. “I urge all New Yorkers to be on the alert for this type of fraud and to protect themselves and their family members by following these tips. We should all be speaking with elderly family members and warning them that scammers are ready to prey on their love of family in an effort to take their money.”

The scam typically works as follows: A senior receives an unexpected call from someone who claims to be their grandchild. The caller then falsely claims that there is an emergency and asks the grandparent to send money immediately. For example, the caller might say, “Grandma, I got arrested for drunk driving. I need bail money fast.” Or the caller may claim to have been mugged or that their car has broken down. The caller will often explicitly tell the grandparent not to call the grandchild's parents because they will be mad or worry too much. The caller may also pose as an attorney, a bail bondsperson, or a law enforcement official contacting the grandparent on behalf of a grandchild.

The scammers often call in the middle of the night or early in the morning to take advantage of the fact that the victim may not be alert enough to ask more questions. Victims are often instructed to mail cash payments or go out and buy prepaid debit or gift cards and call back and read the serial number on the cards, allowing the scammer to transfer the funds immediately. 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, as many victims are often embarrassed and do not want to tell anyone that they fell for the scam.

Attorney General James offers the following tips to protect against the Grandparent Scam:

In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission received 24,545 complaints of individuals impersonating family members and friends, up from 20,234 in 2019. New Yorkers alone filed 1,359 complaints in 2020.

Source: Press Release
Date: January 6, 2021
Attorney General's Press Office/212-416-8060 
nyag.pressoffice@ag.ny.gov


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