Reporting Levon Putney
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – After 60,000 complaints nationwide – 1,600 victims in New Jersey – state and federal officials are rolling out a national campaign to talk about a booming scam targeting seniors.
Jim and Dorothy, an elderly couple from Wayne, NJ, are among the victims in what officials call one of “the most malicious scams in our society.” The couple spoke publicly on the condition that their last name not be used.
The couple said they got a phone call about a month ago from a person who said he was their grandson asking for help and money.
Jim said the man on the phone explained he was in jail in Canada after a car accident.
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“The caller sounded like my grandson only with a stuffed nose,” said Jim.
The man claimed he broke his nose in the crash and then asked them to wire $2,800. They agreed.
“We thought our grandson was injured, in trouble and in need of money and we wanted to help him,” Jim said.
However, first they called their grandson’s mom just to make sure. Their grandson was fine and in school. Jim and Dorothy narrowly escaped being victims of “The Grandparents Scam.”
The caller had specific details about their family which Jim and Dorothy believe he got from their grandson’s Facebook page.
“We feel violated that someone knew so many details about our family,” Jim said. “If it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone.”
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The State Division of Consumer Affairs noted that the average New Jersey victim who complained about the Grandparent Scam lost $3,500.
“The scammers themselves are very smart and they do their homework, they know how to work the process and the emotions” said Paula Dow, New Jersey State Attorney General. “They may pretend to be your grandchild, a law enforcement officer or an official at the hospital.”
Police advised potential victims to ask the caller questions only a family member would know the answer to. In addition, they said people should get in direct contact with their loved ones to see if there really is an emergency or use a secret code word, CBS 2′s Kristin Thorne reported.
New Jersey acting Consumer Affairs Director Thomas R. Calcagni says a nation-wide campaign warning seniors about the scam is kicking off.
“The best weapon against this type of crime is awareness,” said Calcagni.