Scam Alert: Another Rockland Resident Targeted by ‘Grandparents’ Fraud

Police urge caution whenever someone tries to get you to send them money by wire transfer or pre-paid money card

BY BILL DEMAREST
Republished with permission

STONY POINT – It’s a scam that tugs at the heartstrings of loving grandparents who want to help a beloved family member. Someone calling claims to be a grandchild in trouble, needing quick bail money to avoid a stay in a far away jail.

The “grandparents scam” has hit many Rockland County residents, who turned over thousands of dollars only to find out they were victims of skilled con men. Stony Point police say a town resident was targeted by the scam last week, but he avoided being taken for a financial ride.

The incident led police, again, to urge Rockland residents to be alert for fraud schemes that include the grandparents scam, lottery frauds, IRS agent impersonators and fake utility company representatives. The common thread in these schemes is the con men try to get their victims to send cash via wire transfer companies like Western Union or by purchasing a pre-paid money card and turning over its secret code – which makes the card as good as cash.

In the Stony Point case, police said a town resident was called by someone who said, “Hi, grandpa. It’s me.” When the resident replied, “Who? Michael?” he had given the scammer a key piece of information needed to push the scam forward – the name of his grandson.

The caller told the resident he was in trouble with the law and needed money sent via Western Union to Canada. Here’s where the scammers show they’ve had lots of practice: Not only did the Stony Point man speak with a man impersonating his grandson, two other callers also joined the conversation – one claiming to be his grandson’s lawyer and the other one claiming to be a law enforcement officer.

In previous cases, Rockland residents have fallen for the scam, wiring money thinking they were helping a family member. The scam is usually discovered when the grandparent tries to follow up with other family members on the status of the grandchild who was supposed to be in trouble.

Police say the calls originate all over the world. In some cases, scammers seek money to be wired to other countries, such as the Philippines.Also, police say information – such as vacation trips and relatives – gathered through social media sites such as Facebook can be used to help these frauds.

Police urge that anytime a caller tries to convince you to wire money or use a pre-paid money card, double check the information that has been given to you. In the case of the grandparents scam, police say a call to your local police can help find out if a family member really does need help.

Here are examples of other recent scams that have hit Rockland residents:

– Utility scam: Someone claiming to be a utility representatives says you utilities are about to be turned off unless you make an immediate payment through wire transfer or pre-paid money card. Orange and Rockland Utilities says it does not seek payments through those methods.

 IRS scam: Someone claiming to be an IRS agent threatens that you are about to be arrested because you own taxes.

– Lottery scam: Someone calls or sends an emailing saying you’ve won a big lottery – usually in another country – and that all you need to do to collect your winnings is pay a handling fee or taxes. Just like the other scams, victims are asked for wire transfers or pre-paid money card payments.

– Consumer scam: A caller or email offers you a chance to earn money by being part of a program that tests how companies such as Western Union treat customers. The scammers ask you to cash a check they send you, and then to make a wire transfer using one of your own checks – with you getting to keep the difference from the larger check that was sent to you. However, the checks turn out to be drawn on closed or non-existing accounts, meaning the check you cashed is worthless and you’ve lost the money you sent via wire.

Unfortunately, police say many fraud victims don’t report their losses to police because they are embarrassed or don’t want other family members to know they were victimized.

Originally published: http://nyackfreepress.blogspot.com/2014/04/scam-alert-another-rockland-resident.html