Corbett: New scam targets senior citizens in Pennsylvania

Nick Rees Sep. 17, 2008, 3:18pm


HARRISBURG, Pa. (Legal Newsilne) - A new financial scam has cropped up in Pennsylvania, says state Attorney General Tom Corbett, who is warning seniors there that scam artists pretending to be family members involved in a traffic accident.

The scam begins with a call from a person claiming to be the victim's grandson explaining that he doesn't have insurance on his car. He needs several thousand dollars, he says, to either pay for repairs to his car or to pay for damage done to the other vehicle.

Several senior citizens in southwestern Pennsylvania have already complained to the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection about the scam, Corbett said. One 86-year-old man was taken for over $13,000 and a 71-year-old woman lost $4,500.

"Criminals are trying to use fear, sympathy or emotion to convince consumers to quickly send money to a relative who has run into trouble while traveling," Corbett said.

"This disturbing new telephone scam is focused on Pennsylvania seniors who believe they are doing the 'right thing' by helping a family member return home safely."

In two recent successful attempts at this scam, the victims were told to send a MoneyGram wire-transfer from their local Wal-Mart.

The money, between $4,500-$5,000, was wired to a store in Ontario, Canada. The victims then received a call from their supposed grandson to thank them and request more money to pay for additional repairs, fines or travel expenses, Corbett said.

This is not the first alleged phone scam to strike Pennsylvania of late, specifically the Pittsburgh area. The Bureau of Consumer Protection issued a warning last month on a similar scam being used on residents there.

Scam artists posing as police officers from Canada would call, claiming that the victim's grandson had been arrested for fishing without a license and request a wire-transfer of $2,800 to an address in Ontario, Canada to secure the grandson's release, it is alleged.

Other similar scams have been reported across Pennsylvania. In those, telephone messages are left by individuals pretending to be hospital officials or police, telling victims to call a special number to receive information about a relative who has been hurt in an accident.

These numbers are usually international numbers appearing to be regular U.S. phone numbers, creating expensive long-distance bills for the victims.

"It is important for consumers to report suspicious calls as soon as possible, so that we can warn other Pennsylvania residents about possible scams and also so that local, federal and international law enforcement can investigate these crimes," Corbett said.

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