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David N. Kirkman
Task Force Alert
Asst Attorney General
Consumer Protection
NC Department of
P.O. Box 629
Raleigh, NC 27602

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North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services

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Banking, Senior Care Professionals Foil Scammers

******Alert #220 ******

Task Force member Donna White of the NC Division of Aging and Adult Services wishes to share the following information concerning a $4,500 “Grandma, I’m in Trouble!” scam that was foiled by banking and senior care professionals in Chatham County. Donna was in Chatham County last week to make presentations on senior fraud and the Victim’s Assistance Project (“VAP”). VAP is a program developed and operated by Donna’s agency and Attorney General Roy Cooper which trains volunteers to work with older adults who are repeat victims of fraud. Here is Donna’s description of the fraud attempt:

Today the Director at the continuing care facility where I made the presentation called me to report a scam that was in progress yesterday. It targeted one of their residents and was averted by the intervention of the staff, who had attended the VAP training last week. It was a "Grandma, I am in Jail!" scam. The caller told the resident that he was her grandson and he was in jail and needed her to send several thousand dollars for bond money. The victim told the caller that he didn't sound like her grandson. He explained that he sounded different because he had a cold.

She asked three fellow residents of her retirement community who had cars to transport her to Wal-Mart so she could wire the “grandson” $4,500 via MoneyGram. Luckily, they could not take her. The CCRC van had already made a trip to Wal-Mart that day and was not going back. The victim asked a member of the staff to take her to her bank because she needed to get some money and send it via MoneyGram. The attendant having just heard about scams like this, got suspicious and subtly tipped the bank teller. They suggested that she check with her family about the status and whereabouts of the grandson before withdrawing $4,500.

The victim finally told the staffer all about the request. The staffer called in the facility Director, who had also attended the class, and they set up a "sting operation" in the victim's apartment. When the scammer called back, the Director answered the phone and told the scammer that the victim had checked with her grandson and he was not in jail and asked who was this calling. The scammer identified himself as the attorney for the grandson and reiterated the story that he had originally told the victim. He related the grandson’s embarrassment over this false accusation that had landed him in jail and his desire to get out without other family members learning about the situation. Needless to say, the scam attempt failed.

Consumer Protection professionals across the US have noticed an increase in grandparent scams such as these. It is speculated that genealogies and personal profiles posted on the internet might be helping scammers to identify young people’s elderly grandparents and target them with such scams.

******End of Alert******

Date: March 18, 2009

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