Scammers cash in with South Dakota seniors as victims

PIERRE, S.D. (KEVN) - In just two days, the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office received eight reports of people hit by the grandparents scam.

Three of the targets sent the scammers money, ranging from $17,000 to $145,000, according to a release from the AG’s office.

“The scammers are making a relentless number of calls and use threats and fear to swindle cash quickly,” Attorney General Marty Jackley said.

The scam begins with a telephone call from someone claiming to be a grandchild or other family member and requests money for a critical situation such as legal proceedings, theft of their personal belongings or medical conditions.

Scammers are getting better at targeting their victims by the use of the internet and social media - they are doing their homework to make the call sound more legitimate, the AG release stated.

Some calls have multiple scammers on the line impersonating the “grandchild’s” attorney. The “attorney” indicates that they have already made an agreement with a judge and all they are waiting for are funds to be received in order for the grandchild to be released.

One senior received a call, telling her there was a gag order in place and if she spoke to anyone regarding the matter her grandchild would be prosecuted.

In the past these scammers would insist on a wire transfer. The current reports involve the victims sending cash, wrapped in paper, and sent via a shipping company. With the holiday season and packages being sent daily, there is less attention to this method of shipping.

Tips to avoid becoming a victim:
• Ask several personal questions including something that only a grandchild would be able to answer like a nickname, name of a family pet or special family tradition. This will help determine if this is a fraud or not.
• Independently contact the grandchild or parent of the grandchild the scam artist is claiming to be at a known phone number.
• Do not fill in the blanks for the caller. If the caller says, “This is your granddaughter,” ask “which one?” or “where are you calling from?” The caller is looking for answers that will assist them in the scam. • Be cautious if the caller asks you to not tell anyone else, like the parents, because he or she will get in trouble. It is all part of the scam.

If you believe the call is fraudulent then contact your local law enforcement agency. Those who have already sent money should contact the Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-300-1986 or by email at consumerhelp@state.sd.us.