‘Grandparent scams’ ravage western New York senior community
BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) – Between January 2020 and June 2021, more than 650 “grandparent scams” were reported to the FBI office in Buffalo.
“It’s alarming,” said Anthony Abramowitz, FBI special agent and head of the Buffalo division on “white collar crime.”
The most common setting for this scam is a con artist posing as a grandchild or a child in legal difficulty. They explain the situation, then pass the phone to a lawyer, who is involved in the scam. The lawyer then explains that in order for their grandchild or child to avoid legal trouble, a certain amount of money must be paid to post a bond.
âThey absolutely play in the hearts of our seniors – and their wallets,â said Kerry Peek, director of the Cheektowaga Senior Center – which holds weekly discussions with its members on issues of phone scams.
Typically, phone scams are common across the country, especially among the elderly. They play on their generosity, but also their naivety – and the FBI thinks there is a model.
About three billion phone scams are reported nationwide each year, according to the FBI.
âWhen an area keeps biting, the crooks stick aroundâ¦ and when they stop falling into the crook’s trap, the crooks usually move on,â Abramowitz said.
However, the FBI wants more visibility for these scams because they are more dangerous than others.
âThe difference here thoughâ¦ is that sometimes the elderly transfer money, transfer moneyâ¦ but now the couriers will show up in person. We’ve never seen this before,â said Abramowitz.
So far, there have been around 90 reports of home visits associated with couriers coming to their homes to help raise funds.
âIt’s absolutely a danger,â Abramowitz said.
The FBI has created a plan to help stop these crimes before they happen. This is because often once the money changes hands, it is gone forever.
âIt gets really tough once that money even crosses state borders,â he said.
The FBI says if you get a suspicious phone call you should
- Hang up the phone immediately.
- Resist the urge to send money.
- Try to verify the statement – by asking a specific question that only the person would know.
- Call the police in your area.
- Call the FBI at (716) 856-7800.