Secretary of State Galvin warns of scammers targeting grandparents

It’s a grandparent’s nightmare: a frantic call from a grandchild in trouble.

But Secretary of State William F. Galvin is warning Massachusetts seniors not to let their emotions cloud their judgment now that thieves are employing the “Grandparents Scam.”

By searching social media sites and other Internet sites, thieves can gather enough information to impersonate a grandchild, Galvin said in a statement. They then call the individual’s grandparents pretending to be in trouble and saying they need money urgently to make the problem go away.

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The very thing happened to the grandparents of an intern in the secretary of state’s office. His Connecticut grandparents received a call saying that the Northeastern Law student had hurt himself when he crashed into a police car while in Mexico for a bachelor’s party, Galvin said. The grandparents were told to send money to a New York address to assure his release from a Mexican prison.

The only problem? He was in Boston and has never been to Mexico in his life.

Thinking their grandson was in danger, the grandparents sent $14,000 to an address in New York City to ensure his safe release.

The intern then got a frantic voicemail message from his grandmother asking him to “please, please” let them know he was all right. Fortunately, the intern had heard of this scam only a day prior and informed his bosses, who contacted the FBI, Galvin said. The FBI assured his office they would do all they could but said the chances of recovery were “microscopic.”

The grandparents’ luck turned when the package, delivered to an address in Brooklyn, was signed for by the building superintendent, placed in his office, and was still there when police arrived. The scammers, calling from a Montreal phone number, called the grandparents again, making a bid for even more money, but had no success scamming them a second time around.

“Calls for money that stress the importance of not telling others in the family should set off alarms,” Galvin said in a statement.

“Some seniors may not realize the amount of information available on social media,” Galvin continued. “Despite the lurid scenarios presented by scammers, a call to the grandchild or other family members will save much embarrassment and financial loss.”

For more information on the grandparents scam, visit the SEC website at www.sec.state.ma.us/sct or by calling 1-800-269-5428.

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