With families celebrating “Grandparents Day” over this past weekend, the Westchester Consumer Protection Department is hoping to help seniors avoid falling victim to scams.
Each year, opportunistic fraudsters look to defraud and take advantage of older generations, utilizing what has come to be dubbed as the “Grandparent Scam.”
According to police and consumer protection advocates, seniors are often targets of scammers and con artists, who prey on seniors’ potential vulnerability and take advantage of them being frequently accessible at home.
One such scam sees the con man calling the senior and posing as their grandchild, claiming to be in trouble or distress. The Consumer Protection Department has received reports from victims who were advised their grandchild was in legal trouble, a serious accident, jail or other precarious situations.
The scammer will then instruct the senior not to reach out to other family members, but instead insists that they wire money or gift card information as soon as possible to free their “grandchild.” Once the money or information is wired, that money is gone forever and the senior is out of luck.
“Unfortunately, senior citizens in Westchester have been victimized by this scam,” Consumer Protection Director Jim Maisano said. “These calls often come from outside the state or country which makes it difficult for law enforcement to prosecute. Let’s all contact our senior citizens and urge them to follow these tips to avoid becoming a victim of this scam.”
Westchester County Executive George Latimer added that, “it’s all of our responsibility to ensure we are vigilant for these kinds of scams. Educate yourselves, your neighbors and your loved ones to avoid becoming a victim. It can happen to any of us.”
In an effort to help seniors avoid being victimized by a “Grandparent Scam,” the Consumer Protection Department issued several tips for families:
Verify that the caller is really your grandchild – hang up and call another family member or grandchild to confirm;
If the caller claims to be your grandson or granddaughter, ask the caller for his or her name. Don’t provide the name yourself. Usually, the caller cannot properly identify the name of the grandchild and you will know it’s a scam - hang up the phone immediately;
Never provide personal information on an unsolicited phone call to anyone, and;
Never send or wire money or gift cards to an unknown person or account based on an unsolicited phone call, such as the Grandparent Scam.
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