(WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – In honor of Grandparents Day, the state is reminding older New Yorkers to be on the lookout for the “ever-evolving” scams that target grandparents and cause them to lose tens of millions of dollars.

The NYS Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) issued a warning on September 9, saying grandparents should be empowered “to outsmart scammers who prey on family bonds.” Scams that target older people often impersonate a loved one in order to trick the victim into sending the scammer money.

The DCP said that while the scams are always changing, they have some common elements:

  • Impersonation of a family member
    • Often, the scammer will impersonate a grandchild or other family member, saying they’re in an emergency and need cash. But sometimes, they may even impersonate a lawyer, police officer, or doctor calling on behalf of the grandchild.
  • Urgent and immediate need for money
    • The DCP said that scammers will usually claim to be in the hospital, jail, or stuck in a foreign country. Because they’re in an emergency, they’ll ask for money to be sent immediately.
    • They often ask for the money to be wired, sent through an app, or through gift cards or other purchases. The DCP also said that scammers are now asking for the money in an envelope to be picked up at their house because it’s more difficult to trace.
  • Insistence on Secrecy
    • The scammer also usually pressures the victim not to tell their children or any other family member. They may also claim they don’t have time to speak or that they’ll be embarrassed if someone else in the family knows.

“So-called grandparent scams have increased substantially during the pandemic, exploiting trusted family relationships to target older adults,” said NYS Office for the Aging Director Greg Olsen. “In fact, financial exploitation ranks highest as the most common form of elder abuse.”

 The DCP offered the following tips to avoid these scams:

  • Resist the urge to act immediately
  • Don’t engage with the caller or the text. Call the family or grandchild directly to confirm the story.
  • Don’t give out your address, personal information, or cash.
  • Check your privacy settings on social media and be mindful of what information you put online.

The DCP said that grandparent scams have been growing in recent years. In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 12,700 complaints from people older than 60 about these types of scams, according to the DCP’s news release. These reports added up to a total of $23.8 million in losses.