BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Buffalo Police have a warning, especially for our older neighbors. There’s a new scam where con artists ask for thousands of dollars over the phone, posing as a loved one in need of help to get out of police custody.
These scams have tricked some residents out of $15,000 in some cases. The scammers use personal information to target the most vulnerable residents.
“They’re playing on the victim’s emotions and maybe the fact that they don’t understand the legal system,” Buffalo Police Chief of Detectives Craig Macy told News 4.
The new phone scam is targeting elderly Western New Yorkers, using technology to trick victims into giving up their hard-earned money. Buffalo Police say the caller-ID is often spoofed, claiming it is from the police station. BPD is also investigating whether the scammers are using A-I technology to mimic the voice of a victim’s loved one and claiming they are in police custody.
“They usually try to go with something that will make you very nervous or emotional. There’s been two reports of a woman who was involved in an accident that was struck by the target’s family member and she might be losing the baby and they need to get out of jail very quickly, so they are going to need bail money,” Macy said.
BPD says victims are sometimes told to use Uber or Lyft to get the money to their loved one. The Better Business Bureau says scams like this are dangerous and scammers can target anyone through a variety of ways.
“It can happen to anybody. Through phone calls, messages, people scam others through text messages or on social media. There really is no limit to what scammers are able to do these days unfortunately,” Katarina Schmieder, communications director for the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York, said.
The BBB says if you feel like something is suspicious the best course of action is to hang up and verify if your loved one is really in trouble through other family members.
“I know it is tempting to help a loved one if they say they are in trouble, but you’re best to just hang up and verify if there is a situation that you need to deal with,” Schmieder said.
If you believe you or a loved one have been scammed, you can call 911, report it to your local police department, and the Better Business Bureau.
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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.