NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a warning on Thursday to New Yorkers about the rise in reports of so-called grandparent scams, where perpetrators impersonate relatives in need.

The scammers then convince unsuspecting seniors into sending them money. In the past several months, victims of these phone scams have lost more than $441,000.

"It's despicable that these scammers are preying on the vulnerability and generosity of senior citizens who are duped into thinking they are helping out a family member in need," Schneiderman said. "Instead, these dishonest individuals are trying to steal money from seniors. My office is committed to alerting, educating and protecting New Yorkers by making sure they are aware of these imposters before they strike again."

The scam takes place in several different ways, Schneiderman says. Seniors will get an unexpected call from someone who claims to be a relative or a friend. In one version of the scenario, grandparents are targeted by the caller claiming to be a granddaughter or grandson. The caller says there is an emergency and asks the victim to send money immediately for such things as a broken down car, a mugging, a car accident, bail money or to pay customs fees to get back into the United States. In addition, the scammer may pose as a law enforcement official or an attorney contacting a possible victim on behalf of a relative or friend.

The caller then asks the grandparent not to tell anyone else in the family due to embarrassment. The scammer pretends to know the names of a victim's friends or relatives and in some cases will trick the senior into naming a grandson or granddaughter. The scammers often call in the middle of the night, taking advantage of a lack of alertness that might prompt further questions. In addition, the victim may not want to disturb other people by calling them to confirm the information. The scammers sometimes do know the names of one's relatives or friends by obtaining the information from various sources.

The scammers contact people through multiple methods, such as marketing lists, information from social networking sites, telephone listings, obituaries and other sources. They also sometimes hack into people's email accounts sending messages to everyone in their contact list.

The hardest hit areas of the state are the Watertown-area with $6,000 lost, Nassau County with $26,608 lost, Capital region with $31,500 lost, the Rochester-area with $130,000 lost and the Buffalo-area with $248,000 lost.

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