FBI takes on organized crime’s newest vice, ‘Grandparent Scams’

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The latest Grandparent Scam is like no other we have ever covered, and we have been warning you about these frauds for years.

It is sophisticated, and the calls to seniors are not random. The FBI tells us before the scammer makes the call they have a pretty good idea who they are talking to.

“And what is really detestable here is that the criminals are exploiting the care and love and desire to help their grandchild,” said Andrew Abramowitz, FBI.

Andrew Abramowitz is the FBI’s Supervisory Special Agent for Buffalo. Federal authorities are on the trail of an organized group of criminals targeting senior citizens across Western New York in a grandparent scam.

Abramowitz says there is nothing random about their operation.

“These are sophisticated international organized crime groups, they set up callers and call centers. They recruit these ‘money mules’ through social media and the Internet, and they have all the criminal actors in play, ready to go once the scammer makes the phone call,” added Abramowitz.

Before the phone call is made, Abramowitz tells us, the fraudsters know something about their victim, and the loved one they are posing as. In the case of a Hamburg grandmother, the scammers knew the name of her granddaughter and where her granddaughter is going to school–out of state.

“Granddaughter calls the grandmother–it is a scammer–saying she was in a car accident. She was away at college in a city in another state. Then a lawyer, a purported lawyer in that city from an actual law firm, got on the phone,” said Abramowitz.

On three separate occasions, Abramowitz told us, the attorney impersonator conned the grandmother of $16,000 in cash and gift cards.

The FBI’s white-collar crime expert says seniors need to take a step back and think about these kinds of phone calls and loved ones should talk with them on a regular basis.

“Tell them, hey, it’s a major red flag if somebody calls you up and tries to convince you to send money. Sometimes the scams are through the Internet or pop-up messages. But we really want to get the word out.”

Special Agent Abramowitz told us this scam involves local people, and if you have received a call trying to pry you from your money, or know of someone who has you should call the FBI, at 1-800-CALL-FBI — that’s 1-800-225-5324.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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