A.G. Schneiderman Enlists New York's Colleges And Universities To Combat Grandparent Scam

Scam Targeting Seniors Increases In Frequency During School Vacations Like Next Month’s Winter Recess

Schneiderman: These Scammers Abuse The Love That Grandparents Have For Their Grandchildren To Dupe Them Into Thinking They Are Helping A Family Member

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today asked New York’s colleges and universities to help combat the so-called “grandparent scam,” where perpetrators impersonate relatives in need and then dupe unsuspecting seniors into sending them money. The scam involves a call to a senior citizen in which the caller impersonates a grandchild claiming to be in serious trouble and asks the unsuspecting grandparent to wire money immediately. The Federal Trade Commission recorded more than 40,000 incidents of grandparent scams from 2010 to 2013 and the scam is widely considered to be underreported.

In the letter sent Wednesday to the presidents and deans of 86 SUNY and CUNY schools and an open letter to the administration of New York’s private institutions, the Attorney General warns that the grandparent scam tends to increase in frequency during school breaks, like the upcoming December/January vacation, when it is especially believable that a grandchild would be traveling. Often, the scammer will pose as a grandchild in college, claiming to be in legal trouble or even physical danger.

“It is despicable that these scammers abuse the love that grandparents have for their grandchildren to dupe them into thinking they are helping a family member,” Attorney General Schneiderman notes in the letter. He continues: “with the holidays approaching and winter vacation around the corner … my hope is that you can help us make your students and their families aware of the scam.”

Last month, the Attorney General launched an intergenerational initiative, “Grandkids Against The Grandparent Scam,” to get older adults the information they need to avoid becoming victims. Given the tendency of scammers to impersonate college students as part of this scam, the Attorney General has asked all of New York’s higher-education institutions to make their students aware of the initiative. The program provides students with specifics about how the scam works and an informational brochure to share with their parents and grandparents. The brochure offers students a script and other tips to warn their grandparents about this dangerous scam. Some of the tips include: 

  • Be suspicious of anyone who calls unexpectedly asking you to wire money.
  • Verify any supposed emergency, by calling friends and family, before wiring money.
  • Develop a secret code or "password" with family members that can be used to verify a true emergency.
  • Limit personal information, such as vacation plans, shared on social media sites.

The Attorney General is asking the schools to distribute the brochures to as many students as possible and offering to have his statewide elder abuse coordinator speak directly to students about how they can best protect their families.

A copy of the “Grandkids Against The Grandparent Scam” brochure is available here.

A copy of the letter is available below:

November 18, 2014

With the holidays approaching and winter vacation around the corner, I am writing to make you aware of an increasingly prevalent phone scam and to ask for your help with a new initiative my office has undertaken to combat it. My regional offices across the state have reported a rise in the so-called “grandparent scam.”  The scam involves a call to a senior citizen in which the caller impersonates a grandchild claiming to be in serious trouble.  The caller then asks the unsuspecting grandparent to send money. Victims of these phone scams have lost almost $450,000 over the last several months.

The grandparent scam tends to increase in frequency during school breaks, like the upcoming December/January vacation, when it is especially believable that a grandchild would be traveling. 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. For example, a caller might 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.” Or s/he 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. It is despicable that these scammers abuse the love that grandparents have for their grandchildren to  dupe them into thinking they are helping a family member.

Last month, to help prevent unsuspecting seniors from being victimized by this all-too-common scam, my office launched a program titled “Grandkids Against the Grandparent Scam.”  This intergenerational program represents an innovative approach to getting our older adults the information they need to avoid becoming victims. The initiative provides students with specifics about how the scam works and an informational brochure that they are then encouraged to share with their parents and grandparents.

My hope is that you can help us make your students and their families aware of the scam. Please access the brochure here and distribute it to as many students as possible. For anyone interested, our statewide elder abuse coordinator, Gary Brown, would also be happy to speak directly to your students about the scam and how they can best protect their families.

For more information or if you have questions about the program and how you can help, please contact Gary Brown at 914-422-8755 or gary.brown@ag.ny.gov.

Sincerely,

Eric T. Schneiderman