Grandparents beware! Thieves try to steal cash by saying a loved one is in crisis

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NEW YORK (WSYR-TV) — Police say thieves are getting bolder in their efforts to steal money. Older adults are targeted with claims of a family emergency.

“Whether it’s an attorney, a police officer or a bail bondsman – and they tell them that we have your grandson, grandchild, who has been placed under arrest and they need bail money and if you go through them as quick as possible and send cash, they’ll be released as soon as possible,” said Trooper Jack Keller, Public Information Officer for the New York State Police.

Trooper Keller said these calls are often from outside the country but they are using someone local to get the money. He said there have been a few incidents across the region. “An 87-year-old couple, who went and got $15,000 out of their bank account,” Keller explained, “And waited for a guy to come to their house and gave it to them in cash.”

Cash is ideal because it’s hard to trace. Keller added, “The unfortunate part is 99.9% of the time you’ll never see your money again.”

If the caller is asking you for money to bail out a relative you should ask them where that person is being held so you can call the facility directly. You can also contact your local police department. “We can verify that information to see if they were truly arrested or if this is a scam,” Keller said.

The New York State Police offer the following tips to protect against the Grandparent Scam:

  • Take a pause. Scammers create a sense of urgency to prey on victims’ emotions and their love for family members.
  • Verify any supposed emergency by calling friends and family before sending money. This is especially important if a potential victim has been warned not to do so.
  • A grandparent may think they would know whether they were speaking to their own grandchild or to an imposter, but it is easy to be fooled. The caller may be crying or the background may be noisy, or the caller may claim the connection is bad.
  • If the caller purports to be a bail bondsperson, ask where the relative is being held and contact the facility directly. Grandparents can also call their local police department, where officers may be able to call the jail and confirm the story.
  • Be suspicious of anyone who calls unexpectedly asking to be sent money.
  • Never send cash through the mail.
  • 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?”
  • Set Facebook and other social media settings to private to limit information available to scammers, such as the name of grandchildren.

The FBI’s 2020 Internet Crime Report shows the crimes increase as the age bracket increases. For people over the age of 60, there were 105,301 victims. That group lost $966,062,236.

The AG’s office has an online brochure with more info. New Yorkers who have been targeted by this scam are urged to file a complaint with the State Attorney General, you can call (800) 771-7755. You can file a complaint online here: https://formsnym.ag.ny.gov/OAGOnlineSubmissionForm/faces/OAGCFCHome

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