McGraw

CHARLESTON -- Attorney General Darrell McGraw is warning grandparents across West Virginia of a telephone-based "grandparents" scam that has resurfaced.

In this scam, con artists pose as grandchildren and ask their "grandparents" to wire money via wire services or to send money via money orders.

In the summer of 2009, the Attorney General was alerted of several instances of the "Grandparents" scam. One such instance happened to Hazel Lilly of Hurricane.

The latest round of phone calls appears to be targeting West Virginia's eastern Panhandle.

Virginia Sine, Circuit Clerk of Berkeley County, contacted the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division to alert the office about a constituent who had called her for help.

"The constituent stated she received a telephone call on Feb. 22 from a caller who identified himself as her grandson," Sine said. "He stated that he was in Canada and had been arrested after a small accident and that he had been drinking. He said he needed money for a lawyer. He asked the grandmother not to tell anyone, especially his parents, and he promised to pay her back. Upset, the grandmother went to Western Union as instructed and wired money to her 'grandson' in Canada."

On Feb. 23, the constituent received another telephone call and her "grandson" stating he needed more money for a bail bondsman. Again, the grandmother went to Western Union and wired money to Canada, according to the Attorney General's news release.

On Feb. 24, the grandmother received a phone call from an individual who identified himself as a Canadian State Trooper. He stated that due to the accident a pregnant woman had lost her fetus and that her grandson was in some real trouble. In order to help her grandson, he needed additional money wired to him for legal assistance.

The grandmother went to her husband to discuss the situation with him and then spoke with a retired West Virginia State Trooper, who told her she had been scammed, according to the news release. The grandmother then called her grandson on his cell phone to find out he had never been in Canada and had never received any money from her.

"In order to avoid becoming a victim, grandparents need to be completely certain that the person on the other end of the phone is in fact their grandchild," McGraw said.

McGraw said Western Union is unable to assist the victim in recovering her money because it has already been picked up by the people involved in the scam.

"Be suspicious of any request you get over the telephone asking you to transfer money via wire services," McGraw said.

In addition to verifying the identity of the person on the other end of the phone, McGraw suggested grandparents not offer information, such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers or any personally identifying numbers, over the phone to anyone who calls.

"We are also asking employees at locations that issue wire transfers to be especially vigilant and on the lookout for this type of fraudulent activity," McGraw said.

If you believe you have been the victim of this scam -- or if you receive a telephone call that sounds like this type of scam -- contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808.

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