AUSTIN (March 19, 2009)-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott warns of a recent scam Wednesday in which con artists target senior citizens.
Recent reports indicate retirees and senior citizens have been receiving telephone calls from a purported grandchild in need of money.
The ruse includes a caller who begins the conversation with “Hi, grandma,” or "Hey, it's your favorite grandson," with the goal eliciting the name of the recipient’s actual grandchild.
In some cases, the caller already knows and uses the grandchild’s name.
The caller typically tells the victim that he or she has been in an accident, was arrested, is stranded or in similar trouble and needs money immediately.
Often the caller claims to be traveling in Canada.
Throughout the ruse, the "grandchild" insists the victim not tell anyone else, increasing the odds that the fraud will be successful.
If the ruse goes according to the con artist's plan, the victim will wire money to the "grandchild."
If and when the senior citizen realizes what has happened, the money is long gone and most likely not recoverable.
This type of fraud is particularly troubling, as it plays upon a grandparent's natural desire to protect a grandchild, said Attorney General Abbott.
While variations have been around for many years, the scam has become more prominent and sophisticated with the availability of information on the Internet.
Con artists often use personal information gleaned from family blogs, genealogy Web sites, social networking Web sites and online newspapers to add credibility to their calls.
Reports from law enforcement agencies around the country suggest that the scam works too often.
The Attorney General’s Office Warns Senior Citizens and Retirees to watch for these red flags:
Callers with unfamiliar voices.
Vague or elusive callers who get personal details wrong.
Callers requesting money.
Callers claiming to be in Canada or other foreign location.
Callers insisting on secrecy.
Urgent callers pressuring quick action.
Callers requesting that money to be sent by wire transfer (because those funds are hard to track and almost impossible to recover).
Texans should always exercise some skepticism when they receive telephone calls urgently requesting money, said Abbott.
The Attorney General warns that if a relative calls and asks for money, they should verify the identity of the caller with personal questions a stranger would not be able to answer.
Seniors are also advised to not "fill in the blanks" for callers but instead ask them to give their names.
Texans may also consider calling back using a telephone number they know to be genuine.
Another option is to ignore the caller's wishes and verify the story with another family member.
Texans who believe they have been the target of a scam should contact the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011.
Federal Trade Commission
Better Business Bureau