ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) – It is a scam that makes its rounds every year, the Grandparent Scam. It usually involves a caller calling an older loved one and saying there has been a family emergency like their grandchild being arrested, then demand money.
The New York State Police (NYSP) are warning residents about the scam after they say senior citizens in the Syracuse area were scammed out of more than $24,000.
On April 4, an 83-year-old woman received a call from a male purporting to be an attorney, who said they had just arrested her grandson and needed $9,800 in cash for legal fees. The victim retrieved the cash and waited for a currier to pick the cash up at the victim’s residence.
On April 29, an 87-year-old man received a call from a male pretending to be an attorney, who stated his grandson-in-law was arrested and that he needed to pay $15,000 cash for his bail.
NYSP are offering suggestions to avoid scams like this.
- Take a pause. Scammers create a sense of urgency to prey on victims’ emotions and their love for family members
- Verify any supposed emergency by calling friends and family before sending money. This is especially important if a potential victim has been warned not to do so
- A grandparent may think they would know whether they were speaking to their own grandchild or to an imposter, but it is easy to be fooled. The caller may be crying or the background may be noisy, or the caller may claim the connection is bad
- If the caller purports to be a bail bonds person, ask where the relative is being held and contact the facility directly. Grandparents can also call their local police department, where officers may be able to call the jail and confirm the story
- Be suspicious of anyone who calls unexpectedly asking to be sent money
- Never send cash through the mail
- 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?”
- Set Facebook and other social media settings to private to limit information available to scammers, such as the name of grandchildren
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.