submitted by Bucks County Consumer Protection Agency
Bucks County elderly and concerned relatives beware! Bucks County Consumer Protection is issuing a fraud alert to warn consumers that scammers have updated one of their old favorites, the grandparent scam.
As previously reported, scammers have been known to target seniors by calling and posing as a grandchild in distress. They’ll typically bait the intended victim by saying “This is your favorite grandchild” or asking “Do you know who this is?” Unwittingly, seniors fill in the blanks by providing the name of a relative who sounds most like the person on the other end of the line.
The scam’s subsequent publicity has led fraudsters to make a few minor adjustments to their pitch. Most notably, they are now providing their intended victims with detailed information regarding family members. They lace their conversation with correct references by name to other family members, increasing their credibility.
Fraudsters are also targeting relatives of the identity they are assuming, such as aunts, uncles and parents, not just grandparents, and the most recent reports of the scam include requests that money be wired to Mexico. In its previous incarnation, the phony relatives had gotten in a car accident in Canada, asking for some cash to get out of trouble. Now, the back story is that they are being detained in a Mexican prison, with the incarceration serving as an excuse to not contact additional relatives to confirm the whereabouts of whomever the scammer is purporting to be.
Law enforcement officials have not discovered how these scammers obtain phone numbers and personal information about their victims. They also said the latest victims are not related and live in different communities, so the problem is not just a localized one.
There have been recent reports in Bucks County of this scam being attempted. The Bucks County Department of Consumer Protection was contacted by a very astute senior, involved with the Bucks County Area Agency on Aging, Ed Bader, who almost became a victim of this scam. He contacted Consumer Protection to alert us of the scam surfacing in our area so we may alert the public.
He stated that they are very persuasive and having a granddaughter living in California the situation was plausible. He stated that the woman claimed to be his granddaughter needing $2,800 to be released from a Mexican prison after being involved in a DUI accident. Sensing a possible scam he told the woman to contact her father and he immediately called to verify his granddaughter’s location and safety.
Anyone who believes they have fallen victim to this scam recently is being urged to file a report with their local police department. They should also file a complaint with the FBI office in their region. For any questions or concerns contact Bucks County Consumer Protection for assistance.
Bucks County Consumer Protection advises anyone contacted by a distressed relative to verify his or her whereabouts before wiring money. As an overall precaution, the organization urges consumers to limit the amount of information they share on social networks and refrain from accepting friend requests from people they don’t know.
Additionally, families may want to come up with a code word that can be used if they do find themselves needing to reach out over the phone in an emergency. Asking a specific question that only your family member would be able to answer correctly is also a good way to verify the caller’s identity.
Tweaking an old scam is a common trick among fraudsters. Thieves are very crafty these days. They keep updating old scams with new twists. Concerned seniors can find out what other scams thieves are known to try against them by contacting Bucks County Consumer Protection and requesting a copy of our “Scams, Cons and Flim-Flams: A Guide for Seniors and Families.”
Contact our office at 1-800-942-2669, 215-348-7442 or view the brochure on our website at www.buckscounty.org on the Consumer Protection page.