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State Attorney General Warns of “Grandparent” and Other Scams

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has issued a seasonal consumer alert. (Wikipedia)

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has issued a seasonal consumer alert. (Wikipedia)

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has issued a consumer alert urging older Californians to be on the lookout for the “Grandparent Scam” and other scams targeting seniors and others that have been reported to the California Department of Justice.

Scammers try to leverage the spirit of good will during the holidays to take advantage of their prey.

“The perpetrators of these cruel scams and fraudulent schemes prey on the bond between grandparents and their grandchildren,” said Attorney General Harris. “My office will continue to work with AARP and our law enforcement partners to educate Californians about the threat of these scams and to prosecute those who victimize our families, friends and neighbors.”

“AARP is committed to helping older Californians protect their financial well-being by arming them with knowledge,” said AARP California State Director Nancy McPherson. “That’s why we’re proud to join Attorney General Harris and the Department of Justice in spreading the word about these nefarious schemes.”

Specifically, Harris’ office warns of these scams:

  • The “grandparent scam” is a common scam targeting older Californians. In this scheme, scam artists pretend to call on behalf of a relative – often a grandchild – who purportedly needs money. Scammers will create stories of this relative being in jail or stranded in a far away city. Conveniently, the scam artists will insist that you do not have time to call anyone or that your relative does not want you to alert anyone about their circumstance. Remember, scammers often depend on creating a false sense of urgency. Do not send money or offer any help without first calling other family members to make sure that the emergency is real. If the caller says your relative is being held in jail, call the jail or police station yourself to make sure your relative is there and ask for the amount of money needed for bail.
  • Some scammers pretend to be from the IRS. These scammers will call you and say that you owe the IRS money and that you will go to jail if you do not pay immediately. Again, notice that the caller is creating a false sense of urgency. The IRS will first send you a letter before attempting to contact you. The IRS will never call and ask for money and threaten to send you to jail. Moreover, the IRS will never ask you for personal information through email.If you receive such an email, delete it – it is from a scammer. You can report potential fraud to the IRS and Treasury Department at 1-800-366-4484 or https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml.
  • Similar to the IRS scheme is the debt collector scam. Here, con artists pretend to be debt collectors and say that if you do not pay immediately, you will go to jail. Again, note the sense of urgency the scammers try to create. Under state and federal law, it is illegal for debt collectors to threaten to send you to jail if you do not pay a debt. You will not go to jail if you do not pay them money. If you receive such a call, you should immediately report it to the California Attorney General’s Office at http://oag.ca.gov/contact/consumer-complaint-against-business-or-company.
  • Finally, if you receive a telephone call or email giving you news that is too good to be true, like winning the lottery or making easy money from home, it is likely just that – too good to be true! Do not share your personal information with these scammers.
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