ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman  is warning seniors to be wary of new phone schemes demanding money through gift cards or pre-paid debit cards.

The attorney general’s office released a consumer alert Thursday after an influx of complaints that scam artists posing as IRS agents or family members are defrauding elderly residents by requesting they buy gift cards and read the barcodes to scammers over the telephone.

According to Schneiderman, one 82-year-old woman fell victim to the scheme after she received a phone call from a scammer allegedly pretending to be her granddaughter. The scammer then told the woman she got arrested in Boston after authorities found drugs in her friend’s car, and that she needed money for bail.

Schneiderman said another scammer posing as a police sergeant then instructed the woman to buy several thousand dollars worth of gift cards and give him the bar codes. Schneiderman says the scammers continued to call the woman over the course of the next week to demand more cash.

Schneiderman says the woman lost $36,000 in the scam.

Schneiderman’s office says residents should always be suspicious of strangers asking for money, even if they claim to be bank or credit card representatives — and to never wire money to a stranger.

Schneiderman says his office will work with the Retail Council of New York State, the American Association of Retired Persons, credit card companies and banks to protect and educate consumers about the new threat.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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