Submitted on behalf of Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn
Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn is issuing a warning about a reported scam that recently victimized a resident in the Town of Lancaster. Perpetrators commit this crime, commonly known as the “grandparent scam,” by using various tactics to emotionally manipulate their victims in order to fraudulently obtain money while hiding their true identity.
Last week, the victim, a male in his 50s, received a phone call from an individual who claimed to be his child. The caller stated they had been arrested following a vehicle collision, which resulted in injury to another person. The caller asked the victim for cash for bail. After the initial call, the victim received a second phone call from a person who claimed to be a bail bondsman who would send a courier to pick up the money from the victim. The scammer obtained approximately $9,200 in cash.
Erie County residents have also reported being contacted by scammers who falsely claimed to be:
√ An IRS representative seeking payment for owed taxes;
√ A utility provider threatening to cancel service;
√ A Social Security Administration official reporting fraudulent activity;
√ A bank or other financial institution requesting personal information;
√ An online retailer seeking information regarding an unauthorized purchase;
√ A sweepstakes representative seeking payment in order to distribute a prize;
√ A student loan provider offering reduced repayment;
√ A computer company asking for personal information in order to resolve a problem; and/or
√ An online romantic interest asking for money or gifts.
Scammers tend to target elderly individuals who may be more vulnerable to this crime. While it is unclear how these criminals obtain their victims’ phone numbers and other personal information, Flynn warns residents exercise caution on social media.
Tips to protect yourself to avoid becoming the victim of a scam:
√ Do not post your phone number or any personal identifying information on social media.
√ Do not respond if you receive a phone call, text message, letter, email or any request that seems suspicious. Scammers manipulate caller ID, create fake websites and use other deceptive tactics to appear legitimate.
√ Do not follow any instructions from an unknown person who requests your information or demands immediate payment.
√ Do not send money. No legitimate company will request payment via prepaid gift cards, cryptocurrency, bank wire transfer, money order or courier.
Anyone with information on this reported incident, or who has been a victim of a similar crime, is encouraged to their contact local law enforcement agency, or Erie County District Attorney’s Office special investigations and prosecutions (SIP) unit at 716-858-2424.