– The Grandparent Scam typically begins
with an urgent phone call to an unsuspecting
senior citizen. The caller may claim to
be the victim’s grandchild, or claim
to be a police officer. The message is always
the same: Your grandchild is hurt, in jail,
or otherwise in trouble, and needs hundreds
of dollars immediately. Please don’t
tell mom. Please do send a money order via
Western Union or a similar service.
who fall victim later learn their grandchild
never was in trouble. Instead, their money
has been wired to a thief and may never
be seen again.
that thousands have fallen for this scam
in New Jersey and nationwide, Attorney General
Paula T. Dow today joined with the State
Division of Consumer Affairs and the Consumer
Federation of America to launch a nationwide
public education campaign against the Grandparent
Scam and other impostor scams.
in which criminals prey on senior citizens,
manipulating their fears and stealing their
savings, are among the most malicious in
our society. New Jersey is proud to stand
with the Consumer Federation of America,
in launching a nationwide campaign to expose
this crime and help senior citizens learn
to protect themselves,” Attorney General
Paula T. Dow said.
announcement, at Home Sweet Home Adult Medical
Daycare in Elizabeth, included the first-ever
public showing of a two-minute educational
video the Consumer Federation of America
produced with support from Western Union.
The video, along with CFA’s new tips
about this scam, can be found at www.consumerfed.org/fraud.
Division of Consumer Affairs is committed
to protecting our senior citizens from those
criminals who view seniors as easy marks,
who aim to prey on their generosity and
kindness, who seek to profit from a grandparent's
anguish," said Thomas R. Calcagni,
Acting Director of the New Jersey Division
of Consumer Affairs. "We are warning
all of New Jersey’s seniors and their
loved ones to be wary and watchful of these
event also included a statement from Jim
and Dorothy, a Wayne couple who nearly fell
victim to the Grandparent Scam and who spoke
publicly on the condition that their last
name not be used. The couple received a
call on February 15, 2011 from a young person
who sounded remarkably like their grandson,
and who accounted for the difference in
his voice by saying his nose had been broken
in a car accident. He claimed he was in
jail in Canada while visiting family friends,
and desperately needed $2,800 for bail.
caller had a plausible and urgent story.
He used specific family details during the
lengthy conversation – details the
family now believes were gleaned from the
grandson’s or his friends’ Facebook
pages. He pleaded with them not to tell
his mother, but said he would tell her himself
after his court appearance. Despite some
reservations, the couple strongly considered
sending money to a recipient in Canada.
They stopped themselves when their daughter,
the grandson’s aunt, saw them and
asked questions that made them consider
whether the caller’s story was real.
key to protecting consumers from fraud is
public awareness. We hope that our new video
and tips about the grandparent scam will
help consumers in New Jersey and across
the country avoid being tricked out of their
money,” said Susan Grant, Director
of Consumer Protection at the Consumer Federation
2010, the Federal Trade Commission received
more than 60,000 complaints nationwide,
and 1,549 in New Jersey, about the Grandparent
Scam and related “impostor scams.”
The State Division of Consumer Affairs noted
that the average New Jersey victim who complained
about the Grandparent Scam lost $3,500.
the scammers who called victims in New Jersey
with a story about their grandchild, most
claimed to be calling from Canada –
specifically Montreal, Toronto, Ontario
or Vancouver – or England.
Grandparent Scam and other impostor scams
come in many varieties. Some common factors
Scammers typically ask the victim to send
funds via a money order or other transfer
service. Once money has been transferred
and picked up by a recipient with a phony
ID, it may be impossible to trace and
Scammers often use marketing lists, with
names and phone numbers or email addresses,
to target victims.
Some scammers will tell their story using
specific details, like the names of the
grandchild’s relatives or friends.
Scammers can often find this information
online, such as on social networking websites.
Some scammers hack into consumers’
email accounts, then send emergency emails
to the consumers’ friends.
Scammers who call on the phone will typically
try to prevent the victim from checking
whether their story is true. They will
insist, “Don’t tell mom,”
or, “You must act immediately.”
Division of Consumer Affairs and Consumer
Federation of America offer the following
very simple tips to prevent senior citizens
and others from being victimized:
If you receive an emergency call asking
for money, always check with a family
member to find out whether your loved
one really needs help.
Take the time now to talk with your family
about this and similar scams. Consider
creating a code word or phrase –
one only the family would know –
in case it becomes necessary to make an
emergency call for help.
Make it a personal policy, and a family
policy, never to wire money without being
sure the story you’re being told
information – NJ Division of Consumer
State Division of Consumer Affairs has created
a new Consumer Brief about the Grandparent
Scam, available at www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/brief/grandscam.pdf
information about the Consumer Affairs’
FedUp (Senior Fraud Education & Protection
Program) presentations for New Jersey senior
citizens is available at the Division’s
. Groups interested in requesting a FedUp
presentation can call Margaret “Peggy”
Anastos of the State Division of Consumer
Affairs at 973-504-6241.
who believe they have been cheated or scammed
by a business, or suspect any other form
of consumer abuse, can file a complaint
with the State Division of Consumer Affairs
by visiting its website, www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov
, or by calling 1-800-242-5846
(toll free within New Jersey) or
information – Consumer Federation
further information from the CFA, including
the “Grandparent Scam Informational
Video,” visit www.consumderfed.org/fraud
. The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs
is adding the video and tips to its presentations.
The CFA is providing the video to consumer
agencies and organizations nationwide, for
use in their community outreach.
Consumer Federation of America is an association
of nearly 300 nonprofit consumer organizations
and consumer agencies that was established
in 1968 to advance the consumer interest
through research, advocacy, and education.