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Attorney General Warns Of "Grandparents Scam" Fraud

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway is warning Kentuckians about a phone scam that targets grandparents and cost at least one victim $6,000.
/ Source: WLEX-TV

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway is warning Kentuckians about a phone scam that targets grandparents and cost at least one victim $6,000.

Conway’s Office of Consumer Protection has received calls about the so-called “Grandparents Scam,” also known as the “Emergency Scam." “Sadly, senior citizens are often targets of these types of fraudulent schemes,” said Conway. “My office is committed to fighting the financial exploitation of the elderly, which can have as devastating an impact as physical abuse.”

The “Grandparents Scam” preys upon the love and concern grandparents have for their grandchildren in order to obtain money. In a typical scenario, the victim will receive a frantic phone call from someone claiming to be their grandchild who is in Canada. The caller says that they are in an emergency, usually having been arrested or involved in a car accident, and need money to post bail or pay for car repairs or medical bills. The caller then requests that the victim send money to them through a money transfer company, usually in an amount of several thousand dollars.

The scammers don’t identify themselves by name, simply saying, “It’s me, your favorite grandchild,” leaving the victim to guess at the caller’s identity. Once the victim does that, all the caller has to do is affirm that identity. Callers also request that their victims keep the phone call a secret and act quickly to wire the money.

Concerned and eager to help, victims often don’t attempt to make contact with other relatives to verify that their grandchild is in Canada.

This scam originated in the early ‘90s, prompting the creation of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Center (CAFCC), but has become more common of late, with 128 incidents reported to the CAFCC in 2007 and more than 350 in 2008. But despite the increase in frequency, the scammers are often difficult to track down, because often the calls don’t originate from Canada at all, but from countries overseas.

In order to prevent this type of scam, Kentuckians are urged to verify the caller’s identity. Rather than providing the name of a grandchild, instead ask for the caller’s name. You can also ask a question that only the grandchild would know, such as the name of their childhood pet. Also, only wire money to trusted friends.

“Wiring money is one of the most common ways consumers lose money to con artists. Scams are frequently conducted using money transfer services and the funds are rarely recoverable,” cautioned Conway.

Consumers who suspect they have been a victim of a scam can call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-888-432-9257 or visit http://ag.ky.gov/civil/consumerprotection/ .