Phone scam targets grandparents, New York officials warn

NEW YORK — Senior citizens are being scammed by calls from people posing as their grandchildren, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood warned Sunday.

The fake grandchild says there’s an emergency and asks the grandparent to immediately send money. They often target grandparents in the middle of the night so that the victim is less alert.

“Stealing from seniors by exploiting their love for their grandchildren is despicable,” said Attorney General Underwood. “I urge New Yorkers to be on the alert for this scam, and protect yourself and your family by following our tips.”

Nearly 19,000 people reported similar scams in 2017, officials said. But it’s actually a severely underreported crime as many victims are embarrassed and do not want to tell anyone that they fell for a scam.

The warning comes after an 89-year-old woman was scammed out of more than $37,000. She’d received a call, advising her a loved one was arrested in Florida and needed money. Many of the calls from scammers follow similar scripts.

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

  • Be suspicious of anyone who calls unexpectedly asking you to send money
  • 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?”
  • Verify any supposed emergency by calling friends and family before sending money.

New Yorkers who have been targeted by this scam are urged to call the Attorney General’s consumer helpline at 1-800-771-7755.