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Scammers bilk elderly out of cash with lies about grandkids in trouble

If you believe a loved one needs you to authorize a cash payment or gift card purchase over the phone to keep a family member out of jail? It's a lie.

Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw and Sheriff Timothy Howard warned seniors of a Grandchild In Need scam targeting seniors – including the grandparent of a comptroller's office employee, who barely saw through the scam.

Scammers call a family member and pretend to be their grandchild or tell them a loved one, usually a grandchild, is in police custody and they must immediately send money to get them out of jail. Families should be aware that con artists use names, photos and other information on social media to make victims believe them.

"They are scum for targeting the elderly," Mychajliw said. "Unfortunately in some cases, they succeed."

A news release recounted a report from the City of Tonawanda, where a senior citizen was scammed out of $4,000. According to police reports, the victim received a call that his granddaughter was in a car accident. The caller told the victim the granddaughter had been on her cellphone when the accident occurred and the vehicle she struck was uninsured and she needed $4,000 to be released from police custody.

The victim was instructed to get four $1,000 gift cards from Sam’s Club and call back. The victim complied and called back, furnishing the card numbers and PIN.

If you or a loved one has received a call, complaints may be filed with the Federal Trade Commission at or 1-877-382-4357.

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