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Attorney General Warns Of “Grandparent” Consumer Scam

CONTACT: Elliot Burg, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-2153

December 23, 2009

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has recently received reports of over-the-phone scams directed at elderly Vermonters, in which a person posing as the target’s grandson claims to be in need of money in Canada and asks for funds to be wire-transferred to him. In these scams, the caller, who is not actually a grandson, says that he has been in a car accident, or is in police custody, or for some other reason needs money, and directs the “grandparent” to send a wire transfer through Western Union or MoneyGram.

The callers are actually cross-border criminals who take the grandparent’s money and run. They typically use untraceable cell phones and display forged IDs to pick up the wire transfers. Once the money is wired, it is not recoverable.

This week, law enforcement agents in Chittenden and Franklin Counties notified the Attorney General’s Office that one Vermonter had sent two payments of $2,650 each to someone posing as her grandson, and that another Vermonter had been targeted by a similar scam but had lost no money.

The Attorney General’s Office advises Vermonters not to send any money whatsoever in response to these calls. If there is any question about whether a relative is actually in need of funds abroad, people should first contact other members of their family to verify that the relative is really out of the country and in trouble, and then work with their family to provide assistance. To file a complaint, consumers should call the Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program at 1-800-649-2424, or log onto agcomplaints.vermont.gov/ccf.

  Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.