Grandparent Scam

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The New York State Department of State's Division of Consumer Protection is warning consumers to be wary of phone calls and emails in which they are asked for money from family members who are in trouble. Through social networking sites and Internet searches, con artists have become more sophisticated in finding and using personal information to target seniors in particular. With this information, scammers can more easily impersonate grandchildren or other family members.

Several "Grandparent Scam" scenarios have been reported. In one, a grandparent receives a phone call in the middle of the night from a grandchild, who explains that he or she is in a foreign country and needs money wired as soon as possible to get out of a situation. This story often involves being in a car accident, being arrested, or being mugged. The caller also insists that the parents not be informed. In another, the scammer impersonates an arresting police officer, a lawyer, or a doctor, who is calling on behalf of the relative in trouble. Scammers also have targeted military families. They contact a service member's grandparents and claim that a problem has occurred during military leave. In all cases, the scammers ask that money be sent immediately.

How to protect yourself from this scam:

• Never give out social security numbers, bank account numbers, or any other personal and confidential information over the phone.

• To protect your email account from being used by scammers, install a firewall and anti-virus/anti-spyware software. Plus, keep all of your software updated.

• Do not open email attachments from strangers or any emails that seem suspicious. Attachments can sometimes contain programs that allow scammers to gain access to your computer.

• If you do receive calls or emails of this nature, try not to act out of urgency. Stay calm and be suspicious when you receive a call from a grandchild abroad or in a foreign country, who says he or she is in trouble.

• If you do receive a call or email from someone who claims to know you and is asking for help, verify that the call is legitimate BEFORE you send money. To confirm that person's identity, ask the caller several questions, which only that person would be able to answer.

• If you determine that you have been scammed, contact the money transfer service immediately to report the fraud. These scammers usually ask for money to be wired through such services as Western Union (1-800-448-1492) and MoneyGram (1-800-666-3947).

For more information regarding scam prevention and mitigation, please contact the New York Department of State, Division of Consumer Protection at (518)-474-8583.