West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is alerting residents about a scam involving senior citizens who receive phone calls from people claiming to be a family member in distress, according to a news release.
Officials said the scam typically begins with a frantic phone call from someone posing as a grandchild or someone in law enforcement who is calling on behalf of the grandchild. The caller then explains that the family member has been involved in some type of trouble while traveling outside the country. The caller then claims that the family member needs hundreds of thousands of dollars wired immediately to pay for medical expenses, to post bail, or for car repairs, according to the news release.
The scammers also sometimes call twice in a short period of time, first calling as the grandchild and then call as a family friend, law enforcement officer, or medical provider. According to the news release, the second caller sometimes even claims that the amount quoted in the first call was too low or asks for additional money.
"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."
Morrisey said that scammers goes as far as randomly dialing people until they reach a senior citizen and then let the senior "fill in the blanks" voluntarily saying the grandchild's name.
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. According to the news release, you should also contact the money transfer company immediately to report the fraud and file a complaint. You can reach the complaint department of MoneyGram at 1-800-666-3947 or Western Union at 1-800-448-1492.
Consumers also should file a complaint with their local police department and report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov or by calling toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP.