NYSP: Grandparent-family emergency scam alert

ONEIDA, NY —  This past week the New York State Police in the Marcy patrol area are investigating multiple reports of the “Grandparents Scam”. These scams usually involve someone calling to claim that someone’s grandchild or other relative has been arrested (and a bail bondsman) needs to be paid immediately and in some cases an amount as high as $20,000.

Another scam is that someone’s relative was involved in a serious accident and money is needed for medical payments. These scams ask for large sums of money and may also call back and say they need more. An unknown carrier has been picking up these funds. A description of the carrier in the Marcy case is a large white van with no plates.

State Police in Oneida is investigating a similar scam complaint in the Stockbridge area, Madison County.

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 bonds person, 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 the information available to scammers, such as the name of grandchildren.

In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission received 24,545 complaints of individuals impersonating family members and friends, up from 20,234 in 2019. New Yorkers alone filed 1,359 complaints in 2020.

Additional information about the Grandparent Scam can be found on the Office of the Attorney General’s website. New Yorkers who have been targeted by this scam are urged to file a complaint by completing and submitting a Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau online complaint form or by calling (800) 771-7755.