LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) — Most grandparents will do anything for their grandkids, especially if they need help, and some telephone callers are taking advantage of that.
Scammers are calling seniors, posing as their grandson or granddaughter and begging for money to get them out of trouble. Often, they are claims of being in a serious accident or having been arrested.
“It operates on emotion and fear,” Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) said.
Beshear points out that scamming seniors is a multi-billion dollar sham.
According to his Office of Senior Protection, it received about 2800 complaints last year.
“We’ve had seniors who’ve literally lost their life savings,” Gerina Whethers, Senior Protection Executive Director, shared.
The tools for the criminals to identify and target their elderly victims are right at their fingertips.
“Just because someone knows your name, and your address, maybe your age, or your phone number, that doesn't mean they're legitimate,” Beshear said. “It just means they have a computer.”
Websites like WhitePages.com list not only names and phone numbers but also ages, relatives and the places where people have lived before.
WhitePages confirmed to WHAS11 that online listings can be edited or deleted entirely.
Since scams are ever evolving, the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office urges seniors and their loved ones to register with its “Scam Alerts.”
The program sends out emails or texts every two weeks with updates on the latest con going around.
“We were the first, and it's being copied all across the nation,” Beshear said.
To learn more and sign up for Beshear's scam alerts visit ag.ky.gov/scams/Pages/default.aspx .
Online 'Sweetheart' SCAMS: As Valentine's Day approaches, Attorney General Andy Beshear is warning Kentuckians of the "sweetheart" scam, which reports suggest caused Kentuckians to lose more than $80,000 last year. Learn more.
IRS SCAMS: This year, one senior citizen reported sending more than $50,000, including more than $20,000 in gift cards she purchased at local retailers, to a con artist claiming to represent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS Scam is particularly prevalent during tax season, but scammers pretend to represent the IRS all year long. Learn more.
Publishers Clearing House SCAM: Kentuckians receiving phone calls from anyone claiming to be Publishers Clearing House should hang up immediately. This is the best defense against this type of scam. A simple rule to remember is that Publishers Clearing House does not notify its winners over the phone. Learn more.
Deputy Sheriff SCAM: Kentuckians are being targeted over the phone by scam artists claiming to be sheriff’s deputies who can help residents resolve a federal warrant that has been issued against them – but for a price. These scammers are looking for quick, easy cash, and they love the idea of pre-paid cards. If anyone contacts you and requires payment to be made using one of these cards, hang up and contact the AG’s Office or your local sheriffs’ office. Learn more.
Student Loan SCAM: Kentucky college students are being targeted by a scam that promises student loan debt relief services in exchange for a large fee and students’ personal information. Students should avoid these companies. All loan services are already offered free to students by their loan companies, and students should contact their current student loan company that can offer changes to a repayment plan at any time for free. Learn more.
Grandparent SCAM: Kentucky seniors have received phone calls from scammers claiming to be their grandchildren. These scammers claim to have been arrested in a foreign country and say they need money wired immediately so they can pay bail. The scammers add that they don't want "mom and dad" to get upset, and request the "grandparent" to remain silent about the issue. This is one more way scammers are taking advantage of the love and concern of seniors for their families and preying on their good nature.
Hang up. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine. And, avoid robocalls by registering your number on Kentucky's No Call list.
Do not pay upfront. Scammers often offer prizes or threaten to take action against you, if you don't pay a fee or provide your personal information. Legitimate businesses and government agencies will not threaten you for upfront payments.
Do not wire money or send reloadable credit/ gift cards to people you do not know. Legitimate businesses and government agencies will not require you to use these payment methods. It is almost impossible to get your money back after it has been wired, through services like Western Union. Reloadable cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit or other types of gift cards like i-tunes present the same problem.
Slow down. Con artists prey on fear and want to scare you in to taking action very quickly. Before you issue payment or provide your personal information, verify the business by researching it online – verify their website, contact information, search for customer reviews and company policies.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If someone is offering you something for free or a prize you never registered to win, it is more than likely a scam.