West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey recently alerted consumers to a new version of the notorious grandparent scam, a disturbing twist already responsible for two West Virginians losing more than $200,000.
Both victims received a call from a man pretending to be their grandson. The caller, following the usual script, claims to have been arrested and in need of bail money. However, in the new twist he gives the phone to a so-called attorney and requests that cash be mailed inside a magazine.
A Raleigh County consumer reports having mailed more than $185,000 over three to four weeks, while West Virginia State Police say someone in Tucker County sent almost $15,000 before growing suspicious.
“This week’s news is incredibly disturbing,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Scammers will go to great lengths to steal your hard-earned money. Everyone must take note and remain on guard for such phone calls. You can never be too cautious.”
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division indicates that in both instances the scam artist used the so-called attorney to bolster his credibility. He also makes a specific request for bail money asking that cash be taped inside of a magazine and mailed to a physical address in another state.
In one case, the request was for three stacks of $100 bills to an address, which turned out to be an empty house with an unattended mailbox.
More general versions of the grandparents scam involve a caller who claims to be out of the state or country and in dire need of money due to an emergency. It often surfaces during vacation season and when students head off to college.
Scammers rely on the good-will of grandparents to shield grandchildren from potential punishment. This may result in those receiving such calls deciding not to check with the child’s parents. Consumers can follow these tips to avoid becoming a victim:
- Stay calm and don’t react out of immediacy.
- Get a call-back number.
- Call the grandchild’s known number or other family members to see if there really is an emergency.
- Ask the caller questions that only the grandchild would know.
- Never send cash through the mail.
- Never give bank routing numbers or credit card numbers to anyone via phone.
- Be skeptical of any request for a wire transfer or to use a pre-paid debit card, regardless of who the requestor says they are.
- Do not wire money until a third party verifies the alleged child really is in trouble. Check local jails and/or hospitals.
Consumers who believe they have been the victim of this scam can call the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808 or visit www.wvago.gov.