Rhode Islanders are being warned of a “grandparent scam” on the rise locally.
“We have heard reports of this scam nationwide, but lately there has been a spike of calls to Rhode Islanders, so we are warning the public to be on alert,” said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin in a statement.
Kilmartin said he issued the warning after Sen. Frank Lombardi of Cranston reached out to his office to report calls from constituents. Through the scam, he said, callers have been targeting the elderly, usually posing as their grandchild, claiming that an emergency has occurred which requires an immediate wiring of money.
“Scam artists will try to make you panic, so you act quickly and wire cash,” said Kilmartin.
Besides posing as a grandchild, the caller may claim to be a lawyer or a close friend of the child with problems ranging from “being in prison in a foreign country, to being in a car accident, missing a wallet, losing an airline ticket, or having a credit card stolen while traveling.” Kilmartin also warns of the scam occurring through email.
In response to the scam, Kilmartin composed a list of warning signs and tips to protect consumers.
Warning signs include being asked to send money quickly and secretly, receiving calls from unidentified numbers and being asked to send a check or money order by overnight delivery. Kilmartin specifically warns about sending money by Western Union or MoneyGram, saying such requests are “probably a scam.”
The attorney general recommends residents avoid volunteering information over the phone, ask the caller to identify themselves and ask for information that only the person receiving the call or people close to them would know.
He also recommends refusing to send money via wire transfer, noting that “once the money has been picked up, there is no way to get it back.”