St. Louis Public Radio News
6:25 pm
Wed December 23, 2009

"Grandparent scam" targets Mo. seniors

Jefferson City, Mo. – The Missouri Attorney General's office is warning the elderly to beware of phone calls from people claiming to be their grandchildren.

The scam works like this: A caller posing as the grandchild will phone the intended victim, claim that he or she's in Canada and has been arrested for DWI, injured in an accident, or has experienced some other emergency.

The caller then asks for money to be wired to an account in Canada via Western Union.

Attorney General Chris Koster calls it one of the most egregious scams his office has seen of late.

"Because perhaps of distance or trouble hearing, the senior citizen may actually believe that it is their grandchild on the other end," Koster said.

In some cases, Koster says the caller will also have the Social Security Number or other information connected to the victim's actual grandchild.

"We've had 36 cases reported so far this year of this type of a scam, (and) in 20 of those 36 cases, people have actually sent money, as much as $20,000 in one case," Koster said.

Koster is urging anyone who receives such a call to check with family members to determine if the call is a hoax. He also says they can report the incident by calling the state's Consumer Hotline, at 1-800-392-8222.