AG Warns About Scheme Targeted at Elderly

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The West Virginia Attorney General is warning about a scheme targeting the elderly.

Patrick Morrisey says his office has received several complaints about people receiving phone calls from people claiming to be family members who have been arrested or in the hospital.

“It is unfortunate that we live in a time when scammers will stop at nothing to try to take advantage of others, but we all can protect ourselves by being savvy to the tricks they use,” Attorney General Morrisey said.

According to a news release, the scheme typically begins with a frantic call from someone posing as a grandchild or someone in law enforcement who is calling on behalf of the grandchild.

The caller claims the family member has been involved in some type of trouble while traveling outside of the country and needs hundreds or thousands of dollars wired immediately to pay for medical treatment, car repairs or to post bail.

The caller sometimes calls twice in a short amount time of time.

“Scammers will stop at nothing when trying to separate you from your money, even stooping so low as posing as a grandchild who is in trouble and needs bail money,” Morrisey said. “A number of senior citizens in the state have received these types of calls, and many have wired money thinking they were helping their loved one.”

Morrisey recommends consumers to do their homework before they take any action. He suggests consumers take the following precautions:
-get contact information from the caller, including a name and a way to call him or her back.
-call the normal number for the loved one who is supposedly in trouble to see if they answer, or other family members to find out where he or she is.
-never give bank routing numbers or credit card numbers to someone calling you over the phone or reaching out to you via email.
-do not wire money unless you have verified with a third party that the child really is in trouble.
-call the hospital or jail using a number you located yourself to verify your loved one’s status.
-stay calm and don’t act out of a sense of urgency.

“These scams prey on the love elderly West Virginians have for their family, and our willingness to do anything we can to help a loved one in distress,” Morrisey said. “But people need to remember that wiring money is the same as sending cash, and consumers have very little protections if they wire money to an individual. Typically you cannot reverse the transaction once it is made, nor can you trace the money or recover it from a con artist.”

If you believe you have been scammed in this way, call the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808 and file a report.

You also should contact the money transfer company immediately to report the fraud and file a complaint. You can reach the complaint department of MoneyGram at 800-MONEYGRAM (800-666-3947) or Western Union at 800-448-1492.

Attorney General Morrisey says you should also file a complaint with police.

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