GENESEO – Officials at SUNY Geneseo issued a warning on Monday against what they call “the grandparent scam,” a scheme that uses social media and family ties to steal from other families’ protective and loving grandparents.
According to an advisory to the college from NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, The “grandparent scam” is when a college-age caller impersonates a grandchild and essentially begs for money from that person’s grandparents. Schneiderman says that this crime is especially prevalent during vacation times like Thanksgiving, and takes a bit of research and preparation by the scammer to pull off.
“The grandparent scam tends to increase in frequency during school breaks, like the upcoming December and January vacation,” said Schneiderman. “Often, the scammer will pose as a grandchild in college and tell the grandparent that they are in legal trouble, or even physical danger. They will ask the unsuspecting grandparent to wire money immediately and, as a means of avoiding detection, ask the victim not to tell other family members about the situation.”
Schneiderman added that con-artists often access social media profiles like Facebook to get enough names and phone numbers to pass as a grandchild on the phone.
Scammers in this position then use all sorts of stories to get to grandparents. For example, they might call in the middle of the night and say, “I’m in Canada and I’m trying to get home but my car broke down and I need money right away to get it fixed.” They may claim to have been mugged, to have been in a car accident, or to need money for bail or customs fees to get back into the United States from another country.
Schneiderman recommends that everyone use privacy settings on their social media pages, limit the amount of personal information
they make available, only “friend” people they actually know, develop strong passwords on their phones and any online accounts, and not share those passwords with anyone else.
Family members can also come up with a secret code question that only the family knows, to verify their identity in a real emergency. Family members should also let others know about these calls, and never wire money if they aren’t sure of the caller’s identity.
“It is despicable that these scammers abuse the love that grandparents have for their grandchildren,” added Schneiderman, “to dupe them into thinking they are helping a family member.
College officials encourage everyone to share this message with loved ones during the holidays, and stay safe.
PHOTO CAPTION: Photo from Flickr.com.