Guard Against Grandparent Scams

Guard Against Grandparent Scams

By / State News / Tuesday, 15 September 2015 04:00

RALEIGH, N.C. : September 11th, 2015 - By Attorney General Roy Cooper
September 13 is Grandparents Day, a day that many people mark by spending time with or calling their grandparents. But some seniors in North Carolina and across the country are getting a very different kind of call, from scammers trying to take advantage of grandparents’ love for their grandchildren.
 Most grandparents will do anything to help their grandkids, and scammers know this. Con artists who run grandparent scams typically claim to be a grandchild who is traveling, gets injured or into trouble with the law, and needs money right away—but doesn’t want mom or dad to know about it. The scam starts with a caller who says, “Grandma/grandpa, it’s me!” The grandparent often responds with his or her grandchild’s name, giving the scammer the information needed to complete the con, or sometimes the criminal already knows the grandkid’s name. The grandparent is then asked to send thousands of dollars, by wiring money or loading funds onto gift cards from the Apple Store or other businesses. Victims rarely realize they’ve been scammed before the funds are gone for good.
Unfortunately, this scam sounds more realistic than ever thanks to social media. Imposters find names, information about real travel plans and other details that grandchildren share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to make the fake phone calls sound more credible.
This year alone, my Consumer Protection Division has heard from 31 victims who lost more than $650,000 combined to grandparent scams.
For example, last month, an Asheville senior was asked to deposit $6,000 into a Bank of America account to help her grandson, who supposedly called her in distress from the Dominican Republic.
In reality, her grandchild was safe at home the entire time. Earlier this year, a Mecklenburg County resident hit by grandparent scammers purchased 52 Apple iTunes giftcards worth $26,000 and forwarded them to an address in Raleigh.
Because elder fraud is widely underreported, we know many more seniors have likely been affected. Take the time to learn how to spot and avoid grandparent scams, and educate senior friends and family about this type of fraud.
To guard against grandparent scams:
• Don’t answer calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize or emails from addresses that aren’t familiar to you.
• Beware of anyone who asks you to send money immediately, no matter the reason.
• Don’t share information about you or your family with anyone you don’t know who calls, emails, or contacts you through other means.
•  If you get a call or a message asking for help, hang up or log off and contact the person directly at a number you know is theirs to make sure the request is legitimate.
• If someone claims to be a loved one, ask the person questions that only your real family member would be able to answer.
• Share carefully on social media. Make sure your privacy settings prevent strangers from accessing information about you or your family.
• Never wire or send money in response to a phone call, email or online message. Once the money has been received by a fraudster, it’s almost impossible to get it back.
If you or a loved one experiences a grandparent scam, report it to my Consumer Protection Division toll free at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov. Attorney General Roy Cooper and his staff want to North Carolina consumers to get the most for their money. We’re here to be of service when you need us. Through efforts like these Consumer Columns, we hope to help North Carolinians avoid problems ahead of time.

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